Aebischer turns disappointing start into nearly-perfect January
DENVER – David Aebischer spent long stretches of December off the ice, watching his backup and an up-and-coming rookie take the starts or replace him after poor showings early in games.By the end of the year, it looked like the Colorado Avalanche goalie’s season was beyond repair.Good thing Aebischer never saw it that way. Aebischer capped an impressive turnaround Tuesday night with a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center – his ninth win in January to set a franchise record.”I knew sooner or later I was going to get out of it,” Aebischer said of his slump. “You fall down, you just have to get up again. That’s what I did.”
Few, though, expected the 27-year-old Switzerland native to end his personal slide so quickly or so decisively.Aebischer played decent to start the season, even stringing together seven wins in a nine-game stretch in late October and early November.But by December, Colorado was struggling to win games, Aebischer was struggling with the NHL’s new rules and smaller pads and coach Joel Quenneville’s confidence in his preseason No. 1 goalie was shaken.The team decided to bring up 26-year-old rookie Vitaly Kolesnik from the minors early in the month. That left three goalies – including Aebischer’s backup Peter Budaj – on Colorado’s roster, forcing one to watch each game in street clothes.Aebischer finished December with no wins and three loses, including two late in the month after Kolesnik was sent back down to Colorado’s AHL affiliate in Lowell, Mass., in a move that should have calmed the Avs’ remaining veteran goalies.
“It wasn’t easy in December,” Aebischer said Tuesday night after beating the Wild.But Aebischer said he never let himself get completely discouraged, instead focusing on having fun and not letting the personnel moves distract him.”The biggest change is probably in my head,” he said. “Whatever happens around me worries me less than it did before. I have fun playing right now and I compete.”Nor did his team lose faith in his abilities, he said.”A lot of guys in here knew me for quite a while and they were great with me,” Aebischer said. “I think they have a lot of respect for me and helped me. Especially when your not playing, you appreciate that a lot.”
Aebischer won his first game since late November on Jan. 3 against Nashville, then followed that with six more in a row.He finished with a 9-2-1 record in January, snapping Patrick Roy’s record of eight wins in the month set in 2001.Aebischer now has 20 wins this season, putting him on pace to at least come close to the 32 victories he earned for Colorado during the 2003-04 season – his first season as the No. 1 goalie after several years behind Roy.And as Aebischer has gone, so have the Avalanche. Colorado is 9-2-2 in its last 13 games and has moved within three points of the Northwest Division-leading Calgary Flames.”We played together, much better together as a team,” defenseman Patrice Brisebois said of Colorado’s recent performances. “Abby is playing better. Both goalies are playing well.”
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