Don't blame the goalies

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

DENVER -- It's been a trying week for the goalies, but don't try blaming the week on the goalies.

A radio guy has been hammering on that excuse since Christmas and served it up again after Devan Dubnyk let in two iffy goals in the first period against San Jose on Saturday.

Rather than the rookie goalies letting the team down in the absence of injured Nikolai Khabibulin, head coach Pat Quinn thinks it's the other way around: the team is making it tough on the goalies.

The Sharks outshot Edmonton 16-6 in the first 20 minutes, so fingering Dubnyk for the 2-1 deficit is too easy.

"They're young guys," said Quinn.

"You can't for a minute use them as an excuse for a performance that should be measured by looking at ourselves.

"We have guys who are happy, maybe, that someone else might take a little heat and they don't have to. But if they're honest with themselves, there are just too many breakdowns around our goaltenders."

Whether it's soft goals or easy opportunities for the other team, it adds up to losses, and a climate where nobody has a whole lot of confidence in anybody.

"You try to build trust all the way through your team," said Quinn. "It's something that has to happen in front of your goal as well. It's an area that we've had some breakdowns that would severely test that trust.

"It's not good for our goaltenders to have easily-missed plays. It hurts concentration and confidence, and builds fear. If you play with a little fear, you're really in trouble.

"You saw our hockey team pushing the puck away from ourselves, we really didn't want the puck. When that happens it doesn't matter if you've got Glenn Hall in net."

Hard hitter

Avalanche defenceman Ryan Wilson, the same guy who knocked Ethan Moreau out of the game with a crushing hit at the blue-line last time they played Edmonton, knocked Devils forward Patrik Elias out of Jersey's lineup Saturday night.

Elias had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher.

"It was a clean hit," said Wilson, who ended up fighting Jersey's Mark Fraser.

"I know something's going to happen during the game. Better to get it out of the way early instead of waiting for someone to take a run at me."

Ice chips

The Avalanche are 5-2 in January, beating the likes of Calgary, Buffalo and New Jersey. But they tend to overlook weak teams, as evidenced by losses to Carolina and the New York Islanders. So maybe there's hope for Edmonton.

ROB.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA

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WHO TO WATCH

Keep your eye on these two players in tonight's game

PAUL STASTNY, AVALANCHE

He's been a consistent force offensively all season long for the upstart Avs (44 points in 48 games) and with four points in his last three outings, he's coming into this one on a roll.

JEFF DESLAURIERS, OILERS

His turn to start, and he'll be wanting better after getting hooked against Nashville last week (four goals on 14 shots). Nobody said being a rookie goalie behind a bad team was going to be easy.


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