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Red Wings, Avalanche look to reignite old rivalry

Jan 14, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen (96) celebrates with goaltender Pavel Francouz (39) after the game against the Ottawa Senators at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The rivalry was heated and filled with hatred between the fan bases and the organizations, and the NHL made each game between them must-see TV. From 1996-2002 Colorado and Detroit met in the playoffs five times and they collectively won five Stanley Cups.

The Avalanche fell off after the 2002-03 season while the Red Wings continued to excel and won another Cup in 2008, so the rivalry cooled. And when Detroit moved to the Eastern Conference it faded away.

The rivalry will be revisited Monday afternoon when the Red Wings travel to Denver.

The teams are in different places this season. Detroit is young and in what it hopes is the last stages of a rebuild while the Avalanche are the reigning Stanley Cup champions. The Red Wings have endured four losing streaks of three or more games this season, including a six-game skid in December.

At the halfway point the Red Wings are six points out of a wild-card spot after a loss to Columbus on Saturday.

“There’s definitely areas where we’ve progressed,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “After (Saturday’s) game, I don’t really want to get into that right now, (but) it’s clear that we’ve progressed. We’re more deep.

“That’s kind of been the story of the season. We win two or three and then we can’t find the fourth or fifth and get on a nice run. We need to find that. We’re talking about it, we’re trying. We need to do it pretty soon here.”

Colorado has the same sentiment — getting on a run. The Avalanche ended a four-game home losing streak with a 7-0 win over Ottawa on Saturday night. Their injuries have been well-documented, but the players know it has been execution and defensive lapses that have been the issue.

That seemed to be fixed against the Senators.

“We’ve been talking about how we need to play, and it’s been a lot of talk and not a lot of execution,” said Alex Newhook, who had two goals and an assist in the win. “I think (Saturday) we found that execution. So, just knowing that we can get to that if we bring our A-game. If everyone in our lineup brings their A-game, we’re going to be a tough team to play against.”

No. 1 goaltender Alexandar Georgiev had started 12 straight games before Pavel Francouz was in net against Chicago on Thursday night and again Saturday against the Senators. Francouz had missed six games with a lower-body injury but came back strong with a 29-save shutout, the fourth of his career, against Ottawa.

“I missed a couple of weeks, so it’s always tough coming back. I was happy that coach gave me a chance to play two games in a row,” Francouz said after his first shutout since Jan. 24, 2022. “We had a tough loss in Chicago and it’s always nice if you get two games in a couple of days. You don’t have to think too much and you just flow with the game.”

–Field Level Media