Northwest: Downie ups his game for the Avalanche

By Blake Benzel

Photo: Newcomer Steve Downie has been an offensive force for the Colorado Avalanche since coming to that team in a recent trade (courtesy of

Russell Lansford/Icon SMI)

The Colorado Avalanche acquired Steve Downie to bring in some extra grit. What they weren’t counting on was for him to become one of their best offensive talents ,as well. Downie tops the Northwest Division’s three star selections for the week of Feb. 24-Mar. 1.

First Star: Steve Downie, RW, Colorado Avalanche –
Downie has been a huge spark for the Avalanche since coming to Denver from the Tampa Bay Lightning. He helped the Avalanche go 3-1-0 on the week with his two goal, seven-point performance. Downie also was a tremendous plus-six over those games and had 15 shots on net. He has also kept his cool, not registering a single penalty during the four games.

Second Star: Cory Schneider/Roberto Luongo, G, Vancouver Canucks
It’s hard to single out just one of the two Vancouver goalies this week, because both have been so spectacular. They’ve backstopped the Canucks to a 2-0-2 week, stopping 108 of 112 shots for a .964 save percentage and a 0.96 goals-against average. With goaltending like that, Vancouver’s looking like they’re ready to defend their Western Conference championship.

Third Star: Taylor Hall, LW, Edmonton Oilers
– The Oilers might have had an up and down week, but Taylor Hall was one of the bright spots for Edmonton. He tallied two goals and two assists, firing off ten shots in the process.

Weekend Preview

Calgary FlamesThe Flames have two very big games this weekend, both against teams around them in the standings. Despite just dispatching the red-hot Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday to move within two points of the eighth spot in the West, the Flames can’t rest on their laurels. They’ve got the Anaheim Ducks on Friday in the second of a back-to-back set, in which Calgary is 2-2-4. Couple that with the fact that the game is on the road, where the Flames are 13-14-7, plus it’s the game after a victory, in which the Flames are 11-12-5, and you have all of the markings of a letdown game. The biggest game of the weekend, however, comes on Sunday, at home, against the Dallas Stars. The Stars currently sit two points ahead of Calgary in the standings and are the lone occupants of the eighth spot in the West. A regulation win on Sunday could go a long way towards getting the Flames into the postseason.

Colorado Avalanche –
The Avalanche have been one of the hottest teams in the league of late, but they’ve got a difficult, back-to-back set over the weekend, getting the Penguins at home before traveling to Minnesota for the first half of a home-and-home set. They get the Penguins at home, but that’s not much consolation as the Pens have the seventh-best road record in the league. They’ll have a tough game ahead of them, but the good news is that, on paper, they’re playing just as well as Pittsburgh is right now. In their second of the back-to-back, they travel to Minnesota where they’ve been severely snake bit recently. If there’s any good time for the Avalanche to be catching the Wild, though, it’s now as Minnesota has lost two straight, is without Mikko Koivu and seems to be reeling following the trade of Nick Schultz.

Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers’ lone game this weekend is rife with postseason significance, even if the Oilers might not be the ones in the hunt. The Dallas Stars roll into Edmonton on Friday with the Oilers having an opportunity to play spoiler to the Stars. A win by the Oilers on Friday night has a great deal of significance to the playoff picture, as it could help put their “Battle of Alberta” rival, the Calgary Flames, into the eighth spot with a chance to widen the gap come Sunday.

Minnesota Wild
If the Wild are going to get back into the playoff hunt down the stretch, this weekend is going to be a great time to do it. Unfortunately, things just aren’t going to get any easier for the Wild as they’re rolling into Detroit to face the league’s second-best home team. The good news for the Wild, as surprising as it sounds, is that they’re traveling to Detroit on the back end of a back-to-back, in which Minnesota is 4-2-2. Minnesota returns home from their two-game road swing on Sunday, though, to face the Colorado Avalanche. If there’s any hope for the Wild to get back on track, it’s against Colorado, who the Wild have a 3-1-0 record against this season, including two shutouts. A pair of wins this weekend, coupled with some good luck, could find the Wild right back in the playoff hunt.

Vancouver Canucks
Unlike the rest of the Northwest Division, the Canucks are only playing for playoff positioning – likely, one of the top three seeds. That’s not to say, though, that their games are any less significant. The Canucks plays host to the Buffalo Sabres in their lone game this weekend – a game that will see Cody Hodgson return to Vancouver. Once again the Canucks are right in the thick of things for the President’s Trophy, but that’s likely not going to offer any solace unless they can win that last game.

Northwest Division Notes

Calgary Flames – The Flames re-assigned Guillaume Desbiens to the Abbotsford Heat on Thursday. Desbiens played two games with the Flames prior to being sent down, with zero points and one fighting major. … Forward David Moss returned to action against the Coyotes on Thursday after missing 47 games with an ankle injury. Moss played 19 shifts on Thursday, totaling 12:34 and taking five shots.

Colorado Avalanche –
Colorado was shutout in Jamie McGinn’s debut for the team. The Avalanche lost 2-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, despite outshooting them 33-28. McGinn played 13:41, took two shots and had two penalty minutes.

Edmonton Oilers –
Nikolai Khabibulin has been activated to the team’s roster after missing 11 days with a groin injury. Because of this, Yann Danis has been re-assigned to the Oklahoma City Barons.

Minnesota Wild
Niklas Backstrom left the Wild’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens after just 2:52 with a lower body injury. The Wild don’t yet know the extent of the injury, but general manager Chuck Fletcher told CBC that it wasn’t a short term thing. Matthew Hackett will be recalled for Friday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Vancouver Canucks –
Zack Kassian continues to be impressive in a Canucks uniform. He had four hits in 11:04 of ice time, registering four shots in the Canucks’ 2-0 win over the St. Louis Blues.

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