The Colorado Avalanche didn't finish their road trip exactly as they'd hoped, but they're still the Western Conference's top team going into their first home game in nearly three weeks.
The surprising Avs will hope to continue their impressive start in front of the Denver crowd Friday night against the struggling Carolina Hurricanes, who will try to snap their four-game losing streak.
Colorado finished last in the West by a wide margin last season, making the club's initial charge under new coach Joe Sacco even more surprising.
While the Avs had major problems in net in 2008-09, finishing 26th in the league with a 3.09 goals-against average, newcomer Craig Anderson has played every minute this season and has a 2.06 GAA.
Anderson stopped 24 shots Wednesday night and defenseman Kyle Quincey -- another newcomer -- had a goal and an assist as the Avs (6-1-2) lost 3-2 in a shootout at Minnesota. It capped a successful road trip for Colorado, which managed at least a point in six of the seven games.
"We've really showed we can compete, especially on the road," said left wing Wojtek Wolski, who's tied with Quincey for the team lead with eight points. "It's a good start. We know it's very early, so we've got to keep it up."
Colorado was even better during its only brief homestand, starting the season with victories over San Jose and Vancouver by a combined score of 8-2.
It has been nearly three years since the Hurricanes visited Denver, losing 5-2 there Dec. 11, 2006. The Avs lost by the same score at Carolina in the teams' most recent meeting Feb. 22, falling victim to a Matt Cullen hat trick.
Like the Avs' early success, Carolina's problems this season have been in stark contrast to their 2008-09 campaign, which ended with a run to the Eastern Conference finals.
The Hurricanes (2-4-2) certainly haven't looked like a playoff team, scoring two or fewer goals six times. Their offense finally came alive with two third-period goals to tie the game Wednesday night in New York, but Carolina still lost 4-3 in a shootout to the Islanders.
"We tried to get some confidence and we were able to get the point," winger Jussi Jokinen said. "But we need wins."
Those could be close behind if the Hurricanes continue to play like they did late in the game. They outshot the Islanders 27-13 in the final two periods of regulation after getting outshot in five of their previous six contests.
"We were scratching and clawing to produce some offense but I thought it started to look like the game we want to play," coach Paul Maurice said.
Carolina hasn't had as many problems in net, with Cam Ward boasting a 1.90 GAA in his last three games (0-1-2). If Ward starts Friday, it will be his first appearance at the Pepsi Center, and he'll be trying for his first win on the road, where the Hurricanes are 0-3-1.