Andrew Brunette played three seasons for Colorado, but he will always be remembered for ending Patrick Roy’s illustrious career.
Brunette was playing for Minnesota in 2003 when he scored the overtime goal in Game 7 of the Wild’s first-round playoff series against the Avalanche. Roy retired soon after that game, and Colorado’s era of deep playoff runs was over.
The Avalanche haven’t been to the conference finals since 2002, but they feel this team can get back there — and further. They have a real test when they host the Florida Panthers on Sunday night.
Brunette’s career ended in 2012, but he has found a second hockey life as a coach. He is Florida’s interim head coach and has the Panthers holding the best record in the NHL at 18-4-4. The Panthers’ weak spot has been their road play, where they are 4-3-4 and beat Arizona on Friday night.
“It’s obviously been a little bit slow for us on the road, so that was an emphasis for us Friday night, to get these two points and start feeling good about ourselves on the road again,” Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said.
Florida played without two-thirds of its top line. Aleksander Barkov has missed nine of the past 10 games, and Anthony Duclair has missed seven straight. The status for both for Sunday’s game is unclear.
The win over the struggling Coyotes snapped a seven-game road losing streak (0-3-4), and it will be a tough task to make it two straight against Colorado.
The Avalanche are on a scoring tear, having put up seven goals in each of their past three games and lead the NHL in goals with 106 despite playing the third-fewest games in the league.
Colorado has been scoring despite players shuffling in and out of the lineup. Nathan MacKinnon missed three weeks because of a lower-body injury, Cale Makar, tied for the team lead with 12 goals, has missed time, and leading scorer Nazem Kadri (34 points) missed two games this week with a lower-body injury.
Now the Avalanche could be without captain Gabriel Landeskog. He left Friday night’s 7-3 win over Detroit with a lower-body injury, and coach Jared Bednar did not have an update on him after the team’s optional practice on Saturday.
The injuries haven’t slowed Colorado’s offense, which has benefited from strong play from the defensive corps. That group has 91 points in 24 games, with Makar leading the way with 25 points.
“The crazy thing is we haven’t played our best hockey yet,” said Devon Toews, who had three assists Friday night and has 20 points for the season, which is fifth on the team in scoring. “Through our room, we understand that. We see progress.”
Bednar would like to see more progress on the defensive end. Not lost in the Avalanche’s scoring ability is the tendency to give up goals. Only three times in the past 11 games has Colorado held a team to two or fewer goals.
–Field Level Media