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Up next: Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and the Colorado Avalanche

[SBN Colorado Avalanche blog - Mile High Hockey]

It's not every day you get to see a team like the Colorado Avalanche.  Unless of course you have the Center Ice package or know a guy who knows a guy to hook you up with the game.  Yet here they are, in all their Northwest Division glory.

Colorado may just be this year's feel good story.  Granted it's still early in the season and "anything" can happen (or so they say), but the Avalanche are off to a good start and have already surprised even the most cynical of analysts. 

How good you ask?  We break it down after the jump.

At 15-8-5 the Avs currently sit fourth in the Western Conference and second in the Northwest.  In 28 games the Avs have amassed 35 points, a just about half of all of last season's whopping 69 point finish.  So even if things go horribly wrong I think it's safe to say the Avs will top last year's total.

Which may have happened last night, depending on whatever sort of information emerges in an injury report today.  With only 42 seconds remaining in OT, Colorado's Craig Anderson found himself on the bad end of a collission with none other than Florida's Keith Ballard.  He left the game, leaving Peter Budaj with only 42 seconds of ice time before losing it 6-5 in the shootout.  Talk about a tough break.  Guess Ballard's streak of taking out goaltenders is still intact for the week.  If you want to include his own, that is.

To top off the night, Colorado jumped on a plane for Pittsburgh where they likely landed late at night/early in the morning.  With any luck the Pens can take advantage of this second half of Colorado's back to back, but don't let them know that before the game.  After all, we don't want to see them playing down to anyone.

If Anderson is injured than we can obviously expect Budaj between the pipes.  Anderson's 14-7-5 record is easily the biggest factor in Colorado's current spot in the standings.  As Budaj's 1-1-1 record shows, he's seen little action.

Other guys to keep an eye on: Team leading scorer Paul Stastny (6g, 20a), Wojtek Wolski (10g, 13a) and rookie center Ryan O'Reilly (4g, 13a).  Milan Hejduk (11g, 8a) missed last night's game against the Panthers with a knee injury, his third straight since suffering the injury against Minnesota last week.  He's listed as "hopeful" for tonight.

And finally, since we know how much the media loves its brother vs. brother games, we have one of our own tonight.  Nope, not Pascal Dupuis and Colorado's Philippe Dupuis.  As discovered last season the two aren't related, although all indications would suggest Philippe may suffer from a case of severed hand syndrome similar to that of Pascal's past - he hasn't played a game with the Avs since Nov. 8.

No friends, this sibling rivalry goes deeper than that.  It's a once a year, highly anticipated sibling rivalry that exists between Pensburgh's residential fight expert and all around good guy JDunman and his brother Joe, editor of SBN's Avs blog Mile High Hockey.  Last season Joe had the satisfaction of seeing his Avs beat the Pens 5-3 during the only regular season game, but we all know who got the last laugh come June.

Puck and thread drop at 7:30.  Join the fray.