There are a number of players who kick Vancouver’s butt – game in and game out. One of them is Andrew Brunette. He did it for the Wild, then for the Avalanche for 3 seasons, and he will be back in GM Place tonight.
In 48 games, he has accumulated 46 points, including 5 power play goals. He is a player who will get in Roberto Luongo’s face tonight.
|2008-2009 vs. VAN||0||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|Career vs. VAN||48||14||32||46||12||24||5||0||2||0||73||19.2|
John Shipley of twincities.com wrote a feature on Brunette yesterday:
DENVER — Denver is a decent hockey town, Andrew Brunette said, but it doesn’t compare with the Twin Cities.
Brunette returned to Pepsi Center on Thursday for the first time since signing a free-agent deal with Minnesota this summer, scoring a goal in the Wild’s 3-1 victory. He played in Colorado three seasons with the Avalanche and said, “It’s a fun place to play.”
Still, it’s not Minnesota, where, he said, hockey fans are more prevalent and knowledgable because “hockey is bred as part of the culture.”
Colorado, Brunette said, is still a football market. As if to prove his point, the Pepsi Center wasn’t close to being full Thursday night, and some of the press box televisions were tuned to the Broncos’ game at Cleveland.
Brunette, 35, said he was open to staying in Colorado, where he had 60 goals and 135 assists in three seasons. But when talks with the Avs broke down, he returned to Minnesota, where he become a fan favorie between 2001-04.
The transition has seemed seamless. Heading into his 800th career game Thursday, Brunette had four goals and four assists playing on a line, with Mikko Koivu and Antti Miettinen, that has combined for 33 points.
Still, he said, “It’s always a bit of a challenge to fit in with guys who aren’t familiar with the way you play. A lot of my game is knowing where people are on the ice at all times, and that’s kind of how I get a lot of my success. So when you come into a different team, and guys aren’t sure where you are, and I’m not sure where they are … sometimes it’s that fraction of a second that makes a difference between making a play and not making a play.”I still find I’m not quite completely, totally comfortable. I’m still trying to figure out a few things. … But, obviously, it’s pretty easy to play with those guys.”
While Brunette talked to the Wild media about playing in Minnesota, he also talked to the Avalanche media about his time in Denver.
Rick Sadowski of the Rocky Mountain News wrote:
“Andrew Brunette still isn’t quite sure why he’s no longer a member of the Avalanche.
“I thought I did my job,” said Brunette, who returned to Minnesota in July as a free agent after the Avalanche showed little interest in re-signing him.
The Avalanche’s indifference was hard to figure, even if age – Brunette turned 35 in August – was a cause for concern. He’s the NHL’s active ironman, having played in his 465th consecutive game when the Wild visited the Avalanche on Thursday night, and he averaged 23 goals and 45 assists in his three seasons in Colorado.
“I don’t understand it, either,” said Brunette, who was the Avalanche’s second-leading scorer last season with 19 goals and 40 assists. “I miss it. I really enjoyed my time there. I know the power play wasn’t where we wanted it to be last year, but I thought I played pretty well with Joe (Sakic).”
The Avalanche had little contact with Brunette after its second-round loss to Detroit in the playoffs, apparently believing that young David Jones could play a similar role. Colorado also signed free agent Darcy Tucker, 33, to a two-year, $4.5 million contract.
Brunette said the Avalanche tendered what he called a “courtesy” offer of a one-year deal “for the same or less money” than the $1.6 million he made last season.
“I don’t know if you could even call it an offer,” he said.
The Wild was more than happy to take Brunette off the Avalanche’s hands, signing him to a three-year, $7 million contract minutes after the free-agent market opened.
Brunette played three seasons in Minnesota before joining the Avalanche in August 2005 and scored the overtime goal against Patrick Roy to knock the Avalanche out of the playoffs in 2003. It was the last goal allowed by Roy in his Hall of Fame career.
Brunette said he isn’t bitter about how his time in Colorado ended, just puzzled.
“It’s a business,” he said. “Things happen.”
While the Avalanche is struggling, the season couldn’t be unfolding much better for Brunette and the Wild, despite a number of injuries to key players and some drama concerning the contract status of star forward Marian Gaborik, who is eligible for free agency after the season and currently is on injured reserve with a lower body ailment.
The defending Northwest Division champion was in first place after Thursday’s win against the Avalanche. Brunette is the team’s third-best scorer with five goals and four assists. He’s skating on the top line with Mikko Koivu and Antti Miettinen, a unit that has combined for 13 goals and 23 assists in the Wild’s first 12 games.
“We’ve gotten off to a pretty good start, especially with all the injuries we’ve had,” Brunette said. “We’re pretty banged up. We have a couple games left on this trip (a four-game excursion that ends Saturday in Vancouver). We have to find a way to get some points out of these games.”
The return to Minnesota has been a relatively smooth one for Brunette, a popular player in the Twin Cities area.
“There are five or six guys here that I either played with or I already knew,” he said. “I obviously knew all the trainers and coaches. We’ve been able to play some good hockey, play right and win some games. It was big for us to start off well. It’s been more than enjoyable.”