Avs OK for now,
but not longterm

Jan 2, 2007 3:20 AM

With the NHL contemplating a reduction in divisions from its current six to four, Colorado is probably glad for the present status quo.

The Avalanche were 5-3 in their last eight games entering last weekend. The jammed pack Northern Division had Calgary and Minnesota tied at the top with 40 points, one ahead of Vancouver and two up on Colorado and Edmonton.

All five teams in the division are playing above .500 through less than 40 games, roughly half of the 82-game season. The Avs are now third in the Western Conference in scoring with 120 goals, led by perennial All-Star Joe Sakic (17 goals, 24 assists, 41 points.)

The proposed new alignment would move Minnesota from the Northwest to the Eastern Conference. The Avs, Canucks, Oilers and Flames would join the Pacific Division, whose members currently include Anaheim, San Jose, Dallas, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

"Colorado is still a decent team, but very average when considering the overall picture in the NHL," said Jason Bean, hockey analyst and oddsmaker at Las Vegas Sports Consultants. "(Jose) Theodore has not had a good year in the nets and there are many defensive problems. I don’t think they are physical enough to make a long run into the playoffs."

As for now, Colorado could not have picked a better time to heat up. Minnesota was 2-4 during the same span, while Calgary was 2-3, Edmonton 1-3 and Vancouver 0-3. The recent blizzard gave the Avs a lot of free time off the ice, but did not hurt the team’s performance. After a postponement against Calgary, the Avs returned two nights later to the Pepsi Center and edged Chicago, 3-2.

"Sometimes rest is a weapon, and that was rest no one was expecting," Avs center Ian Laperriere said of the blizzard in the Rocky Mountain News. "Hopefully it’s going to pay off somewhere down the line."

Colorado had a game New Years Day at Nashville before a week of action that included a home matchup Friday with Tampa Bay and a Saturday game at Minnesota.