SUN Hockey Pool

Confidence Mile-high for Raycroft

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

DENVER -- Last season, it was Jose Theodore who found his game again in the Mile High City.

This year, it's fellow goaltender Andrew Raycroft turning around a career.

Signed by the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent after his contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs was bought out, Raycroft won't say his confidence was lost, but he admits it's more a case of finding his form.

Having a new start helped, too.

"I've played a lot of games in this league, won a lot of games and been around a long time," Raycroft said after yesterday's practice in anticipation of facing the Flames tonight. "I know you're going to have bad seasons every once in a while. Last year was a bad season.

"It was refreshing to get a new start. Just being here was good motivation and good for me mentally."

As the Avs ready to meet the Flames tonight at the Pepsi Center, Raycroft is boasting a solid 2.73 goals-against average and .903 save percentage to go with a 9-3 record.

It's a far cry from his numbers last season in Toronto.

Raycroft, the 2003-04 Calder Trophy winner as the top rookie while with the Boston Bruins, went to the Leafs for the 2006-07 NHL season and appeared to be on strong ground.

The 37 wins he collected that season tied the franchise record held by Ed Belfour.

But he lost the starting job the moment the Maple Leafs acquired Vesa Toskala in the summer of 2007 and struggled mightily in the backup role -- a 3.92 goals-against average with an .876 save percentage and a 2-9-5 record.

After the final season of a three-year, US$6-million pact was bought out, he inked a one-year, US$800,000 deal with the Avs.

Then began the process of putting his game back together.

"Last year, he didn't play a lot of games, and I'm sure when you don't, you tend to second-guess yourself," said Avalanche head coach Tony Granato. "From the start of the year, the maturity in his work ethic in practice and his practice habits have been sharper. It's not that he didn't try to didn't care, but it's those little things that have been better because he built a relationship with (goalie coach) Jeff Hackett, and that's helped him get back on track. He's played extremely well for us from the start of the season."

After serving as the back-up to Peter Budaj through the first two months of the season, Raycroft has taken a much bigger role, especially of late, getting the nod in five of the last six clashes.

"You get a few breaks, and everything we've worked on is paying off," Raycroft said."


Videos

Photos