The Avs finally broke their losing streak, ending the horror at 5 games. Budaj played very well. No, Nashville is not a good team right now, but shutouts in the NHL are hard to come by, regardless of the opponent. The Avs were actually able to put together a complete game - they had multiple offensive chances, defensively they were very solid, and Budaj played well and with confidence. They will need all of those things to continue as the next four games are huge - all against NW divisional foes and three on the road. The goal for the 4 game set should be 3-1. If they can accomplish that, they will be back to .500 and can start looking ahead to the next phase of the season.
Some interesting roster and lineup activity from the Smashville game -
Hannan paired with Foote and Clark paired with Liles. This move is all about Hannan, and it's an interesting idea. This appears to be an effort to take some defensive pressure off of Hannan - he can be sure that Foote will stay at home. In his other pairings, Hannan is looked at as the defensive stalwart (that's what you're paid for Braden) - but he hasn't lived up to that so far in what has become another slow start to the season. This speaks to the versatility of a guy like Clark. This is a guy the Avs really missed last year, and while his play so far this season has not been what it was before he was injured, he is still a valuable offensive and defensive contributor to the blue line. I think people forget how good Clark was before he was injured. Paired now with Liles, he is able to adjust his role to more of a defensive one and allow Liles to skate with the puck and jump in to the rush - this might be a better role for Clark anyways until he knocks all the rust off. Thumbs up to Granato for making or approving this switch.
Speaking of Clark, Dater at the Denver Post has taken a cue from Hockeybuzz and is citing confidential sources in reporting that there have been talks regarding a deal that involves Clark and Montreal's Halak. While it does not surprise me that the Avs are exploring all of their options in the goaltending market, I would be surprised to see this deal happen. I think any Avs fan would be plenty happy to see Halak come to Denver, but I doubt Clark would be enough. FG would have to be a hell of a salesman to get a cheap young quality goaltender for a D-man making $3.5 per year coming off of a major injury. Clark is a good d-man though, and good d-man are hard to find. Also, his contract is only good through the end of next season which is a plus for the cap flexibility of any trading partner. I just think that the Habs would want to send some serious salary back to the Avs in any deal, and I don't think the Avs have the cap flexibility to accomodate that. I'd be interested to hear what Habs fans think.
In general though, it would not surprise me to see an Avs defenseman moved sometime this year. Reasonable people can disagree on the NHL readiness of Cumiskey, but D is definitely where the organizational depth is for the Avs - so that is what they will be sending off in any deal for a goaltender. I don't think they would deal Foote or Liles after just resigning them. Hannan is overpriced and thus less attractive. Leopold is a FA at the end of this season and also slightly injury prone (just slightly though). That leaves Clark and Salei. Salei has not had a great start to this season either. But I could see Salei or Clark being moved, and if the Avs are out of it by the deadline, then I could also see Leo getting traded for a pick or prospect.
In other news, Scott Parker refused to report to Cleveland and was released by the team. Parker was pretty useless last year and the only reason I mention it is that he did fill the "heavyweight" role for the Avs, and it will be interesting to see if teams that still employ their own heavyweight will try to take advantage of the Avs physically when they know that there is really no chance of Parker dressing for the rematch.
Let's not forget the benching of Tyler Arnason. Instead of giving him 2nd line minutes in Sakic's absence per the recommendation of a certain Avs blogger, Granato scratched him. I hope this motivates Arnie. Such a frustrating mix of talent and indifference. But I'm glad that Granato is being proactive with his lineup. In Arnason's absence, Hensick has looked fantastic the last two games and deserves the 19 minutes he got Saturday. In other roster news, McCormick is still mysteriously out of the lineup. So if Sakic is going to miss some extended time, here's how my lines would look -
Smyth - Stastny - Hejduk (these guys need to get it going btw)
Wolski - Hensick - Tucker
Svatos - Arnason - Jones
McLeod - Guite - Lappy
Wolski should be getting more minutes here soon. Svatos played a miniscule 2:53 and I don't think he saw the ice at all in the 3rd period after his hooking penalty late in the 2nd. Not good when you get more PIMs than ice time unless your name is Scott Parker. Svats might be the next to get an object lesson from Granato by watching a game from the pressbox. Might do him some good. I have no idea what the deal is with McCormick and I can't seem to find anything on it anywhere - but if he's back next game then Granato should sit Svatos, move McLeod up to that line and put McCormick in on the 4th line. Another option is Willsie in Cleveland - he has 7 goals and 4 assists in 11 games and could fill a spot on the 3rd line.