The Avs tried to give away a win in LA, but they just couldn't quite do it thanks to a nice tying goal by Stastny and a strong finish from Budaj. Granted, Budaj had a bit of a relapse on the two third period goals he allowed to give the Kings the lead, but he was able to steady himself and close the door in the third period, OT and the shootout.
The Avs offense looked much better overall in this game as they attacked the Kings' zone in transition and were content with getting the puck to the net and looking for rebounds. Smyth had some very nice power forward moments carrying the puck to the net (that's what you're paid for Braden). This game showed how effective he can be when he wants to be. It's anybody's guess as to why last night's performance is not the norm for Smyth, because he seems to be able to turn it on at will.
Granato responded to the Avs struggles by indeed calling up Willsie and mixing up the lines. Svatos-Stastny-Wolski was a fun glimpse of the future, and Hensick looked completely comfortable centering Smyth and Hejduk. Again, the 4th line was great; I only wish they got more ice time. It's fun to watch those guys forecheck and punish opposing defensemen.
Speaking of defensemen being punished, Foote caught a scary hit from behind and is out for at least tonight's game. I can't get too worked up about it. I thought 5 and a game was the correct call, but I'm not as sure as some others are that Zeiler will be suspended. It was a bang-bang play with Foote turning into the hit. Yes Zeiler should have let up, but I'm sure Foote would admit in private that he shouldn't expect a forechecker to let up on him. The Wolski injury was one of those weird hits where a guy is falling down and just gets caught in a bad spot. Hopefully both are ok and will be back soon as the Avs can't afford those losses right now.
The PP looked better Saturday night as well. The Avs started off again looking for that low cross-crease pass for the empty net goal, but after it didn't work a few times, they adjusted and started feeding the points. If they can generate some chances from up top, then that low pass they covet so badly will begin to open up. The other positive is that Leopold was firing accurate one-timers from the point. This is a weapon Avs fans have not seen since Rob Blake left town and could have a huge impact on their PP. It's nice to see the Avs trusting Leopold in this spot, because he is the only one on the current roster capable of instilling fear in PK units from the point.
From Dater's reports in the Post it sounds like Sakic will be back and perhaps centering Jones and Hejduk. A line combo of Smyth-Stastny-Svatos is also mentioned along with a third line of Willsie-Hensick-Tucker. Definitely keep Hensick and Willsie together as they exhibited some great chemistry in Cleveland. If Wolski can play then I would expect him to hop on that line with Sakic and Jones will sit and watch. If Wolski and Sakic are both healthy, then Jones should be sent to Cleveland to get the proper amount of playing time to continue to develop.
Tjarnqvist will play in his first game tonight. I remember him from his time with the Wild - he should be able to play 3rd pairing minutes and be a solid defender. I'm not worried about him. It will be interesting though to see what they do for a top defensive pairing - I would go Salei and Hannan and leave Clark and Liles together.
Time to put another winning streak together.