AVS SET FOR FI­NAL GAME AT THE “JOE”

Red Wings mov­ing into new arena next sea­son

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Terry Frei Terry Frei: tfrei@den­ver­post.com or @TFrei

In bet­ter times for both fran­chises, Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena was the site of most of the no­to­ri­ous in­ci­dents in the AvalancheRed Wings ri­valry. Dar­ren McCarthy go­ing af­ter Claude Lemieux. Patrick Roy fight­ing — first Mike Ver­non and then Chris Os­good — in the rare goal­tenders’ bouts at cen­ter ice. Lemieux seek­ing val­i­da­tion by drop­ping the gloves with McCarthy at an open­ing face­off. And ... And more. With Lit­tle Cae­sars Arena ex­pected to be ready for next sea­son, the Avalanche’s Satur­day game in Detroit against the Red Wings will be the fi­nal ap­pear­ance for Colorado in the ven­er­a­ble “Joe,” sched­uled to be de­mol­ished and re­placed by a ho­tel and re­tail de­vel­op­ment along the Detroit River wa­ter­front. An­other Colorado team — the Don Cherry-coached Rock­ies — played in the third-ever NHL game in the build­ing, on New Year’s Eve 1979, and the Wings will have seven more home games af­ter the Avalanche’s ap­pear­ance Satur­day. The fi­nal Wings game in the arena is April 9 against New Jersey, and that’s a bit un­ex­pected, be­cause Detroit’s play­off streak is com­ing to an end at 25 sea­sons.

Avalanche backup goalie Jeremy Smith, sched­uled to be on the bench as Calvin Pickard starts Satur­day, was born and raised in Dearborn, a Detroit sub­urb. He was 7 years old when the most no­to­ri­ous game in the ri­valry took place March 26, 1997. An AHL jour­ney­man, Smith fi­nally made it to the NHL this sea­son in the wake of Se­myon Var­lamov’s in­jury prob­lems and posted his first ca­reer win against Buf­falo on Feb. 25.

“That arena has so much his­tory, and grow­ing up in Detroit, go­ing to watch the Wings and see­ing them win back-to-back cham­pi­onships, it’s pretty spe­cial to be go­ing there,” Smith said af­ter prac­tice Fri­day. “Es­pe­cially with the ri­valry be­tween these two teams and grow­ing up, see­ing Roy at cen­ter ice and the melee that hap­pened. It’ll be pretty spe­cial to be a part of it.” Did he hate the Avalanche? “Hate is too strong a word,” Smith said, laugh­ing. “I rooted for the Wings, no mat­ter who they were play­ing be­cause they’re your fa­vorite team. But my brother’s fa­vorite player was Joe Sa­kic, and I

COLORADO AT DETROIT Spot­light on Dylan Larkin: NOTE­BOOK Avalanche:

11 a.m. Satur­day, ALT; 950 AM

Avalanche for­ward J.T. Com­pher’s team­mate for one year at Michi­gan, Larkin is in his sec­ond sea­son with the Red Wings but hasn’t been as im­pres­sive as he was in 2016-17, when as a rookie he scored 23 goals. He scored his 14th goal of the sea­son Thurs­day night in the Red Wings’ 5-4 shootout win at Ari­zona.

Coach Jared Bed­nar said he con­sid­ered giv­ing backup goalie Jeremy Smith, who is from the Detroit area, the start in Colorado’s fi­nal ap­pear­ance at Joe Louis Arena, but noted that Calvin Pickard has al­lowed only two goals in his last two starts — a 1-0 loss to Ari­zona and a 3-1 win over the Red Wings. “I think we have to go back with him,” Bed­nar said . ... Matt Ni­eto, who missed the Wed­nes­day game against Detroit be­cause of a knee in­jury, went through a full prac­tice Fri­day and is ex­pected to play Satur­day. Red Wings: Detroit re­sponded to the loss in Den­ver with the over­time win over the Coy­otes . ... This will be the Red Wings’ third game in four days. They have only two wins in their past seven games . ... Detroit hasn’t been math­e­mat­i­cally eliminated from play­off con­tention, but it won’t be ad­vanc­ing to the play­offs. think you re­spect the good play­ers and the whole game as a fan and even through there was a big ri­valry, it fu­eled the fires for the cities, and es­pe­cially for Detroit.”

Smith played youth hockey games in Joe Louis Arena. “That was pretty spe­cial, and I played two pre­sea­son games with Bos­ton there,” he said. “Every time I go into that arena, it’s some­thing. Just the his­tory. How old it is. And there’s noth­ing else like it, re­ally.”

Pickard said play­ing in the fi­nal Colorado game at JLA is cool.

“It’s filled with a lot of his­tory and I had a pretty mem­o­rable game there a cou­ple of years ago (Dec. 21, 2014) when we went nine rounds in the shootout,” Pickard said.

Avalanche for­ward J.T. Com­pher, who was raised in the Chicago area, played sev­eral games at JLA in his three sea­sons at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan.

“I think it’s go­ing to be a lot of fun,” he said. “I got to play in that build­ing in col­lege a lot. We played Michi­gan State there every year, we had the Big Ten tour­na­ment there every other year, and we played the Great Lakes In­vi­ta­tion there af­ter Christ­mas. I’m ex­cited.”

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