AVS SET FOR FINAL GAME AT THE “JOE”
Red Wings moving into new arena next season
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.”