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Welcome to Chicago, Avalanche

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  By Tony DeFrancesco

As if Chicago needed more snow, here comes the Colorado Avalanche. Hopefully the Blackhawks can plow through them just as effectively as the City of Chicago took care of that snow storm.

Here's the deal with the Avs this season: They suck.

With only eight wins on the season, they finally got a much needed shot in the arm with the return of Ryan O'Reilly. The new $6.5 million dollar man (in all fairness that doesn't kick in until next year) made his debut against the Columbus Blue Jackets, effectively putting up a grand total of nothing on the scoresheet... something we call a goose egg across the board. His second game against the Red Wings didn't look much better, in fact he actually posted one number: a minus-1 rating, although he did improve in the face-off dot.

So far, the O'Reilly Avalanche are faring just about as bad as the O'Reillyless Avalanche fared. No wins since his return.

There is somewhat of a saving grace for Colorado this season, even though they can hardly buy a win, and that is the bounce back year they have received from Matt Duchene. Thanks to the instant chemistry he has developed with new acquisition and former Blackhawk PA Parenteau,the duo has provided the Avalanche fans with something to cheer for while captain Gabriel Landeskog was out due to a concussion. With Landeskog back, O'Reilly signed, and Duchene leading the offense, perhaps there is still hope to salvage the season... or maybe not.

The defensive core on this team is brutally awful. Headlined by Tyson Barrie and Matt Hunwick, (You might be asking, who?) it's no wonder that excellent goaltenders such as Seymon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere have only been able to squeeze out eight wins between the both of them. To round out the defense, Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda make an appearance on what could be considered the worst top four in the entire league.

In all fairness to the Colorado Avalanche organization, they are going through a rebuilding process. This may begin to sound cocky, but if the Blackhawks give away their first regulation loss to this team, I would be completely shocked. It would have to take a really incredible performance Seymon Varlamov to pull off a win in regulation, or Ray Emery will have to do his best impression of Swiss cheese and the Blackhawks as a whole decide to mail it in. But let's get real here, the Blackhawks have not mailed in a game for a long time now. So why start now?

Unlike the lowly Blue Jackets, or even the Calgary Flames, or Edmonton Oilers... the Avalanche have not beat a single team that was in a playoff position at the time of the win, which raises a big red flag on where their compete level stands. There has even been whispers of Colorado letting go of head coach Joe Sacco, so it's clearly a time of turmoil in the mile-high city and a perfect opportunity for the Blackhawks to rip off another win towards their record.

IF HISTORY REPEATS ― Patrick Sharp leads all Blackhawks with 19 points in 25 career games vs. the Colorado Avalanche, but Marian Hossa has the most goals with 11 goals in 19 career games. Leading the defense is Duncan Keith, with 13 assists and 15 points in 28 career games. Ray Emery has hardly seen the Avalanche throughout his career, but in the three games he has appeared in he has posted a 1-1-0 record, 0.850 save percentage, and 4.83 goals against average.

THE BOTTOM LINE ― On paper, it's laughable to think that this Avalanche team can even compete in the same building with the Blackhawks. But, you also have to consider that Ray Emery really has not done a good job against the Avalanche in his career, while Seymon Varlamov has proven time and time again that he can steal a win and has always played particularly well against Chicago. It would be very disappointing to see the Avalanche put the breaks on the Blackhawks unbeaten streak but fortunately, that is the only hurdle that I can see for the Blackhawks heading into this match-up, and on the other side of the coin the Avalanche have about 18 different hurdles they will have to jump in order to pry this win out of the Blackhawks hands. Yes, the Blackhawks are also coming off a home back-to-back scenario, which is something to consider, but the Avalanche are dealing with their own back-to-back scenario on the road. With so much momentum heading forward, Chicago should keep that rolling with another win against the Avalanche tonight.

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ACROSS THE POND ― Marc Staal, defenseman of the New York Rangers, was hit in the eye on Tuesday night and is still swollen, there is no official release on the extent of the injury ... The New York Rangers have claimed defenseman Roman Hamrlik off waivers ... The Calgary Flames have activated goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff from IR ... Stephen Weiss of the Florida Panthers will undergo season ending surgery ...

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