Preview: Avalanche at Hurricanes, Game 17

Grant Halverson

Colorado (14-2-0) travels to Carolina (6-7-4) to face Eric Staal and the Canes for the second and final time this season.

You know why tonight is a must-win for the Avs? Because the schedule is about to get a whole lot tougher:

Thu. Nov 14, Avalanche at Blues

Sat. Nov 16, Panthers at Avalanche

Tue. Nov 19, Blackhawks at Avalanche

Thu. Nov 21, Avalanche at Coyotes

Sat. Nov 23, Avalanche at Kings

Wed. Nov 27, Blues at Avalanche

Fri. Nov 29, Avalanche at Wild

Sat. Nov 30, Wild at Avalanche

Let's all be real here - and burgundyRainbow, you might want to cover your eyes - the streak of 6-1, 6-1 won't be lasting too much longer. Not counting tonight, five of the next eight matchups are against division opponents. Seven of eight take place in the blood-and-guts Western Conference, with our only "break" on Nov. 16 against the struggling Panthers. It will be very interesting to see what kinds of adjustments Patrick Roy makes - if at all - against clubs with a penchant for grindy, in-your-face defense. Even more interesting will be how he splits up Varlamov and Giguere down this stretch.

But as all the coaches say, "You gotta take it one game at a time." And so let's focus on Carolina.

The two teams played very recently on Oct. 25 at the Pepsi Center, with the Avs securing a 4-2 victory thanks to mighty Matt Duchene's unbelievable performance which included 2 highlight goals and an assist. Also outstanding was Paul Stastny, who terrorized both sides of the ice with 1 assist, 20:20 TOI and 71% at the dot.

However, perhaps the most impressive player from that game came on the losing side: 27-year-old goaltender Justin Peters played solid against the Avs despite the somewhat shaky defense in front of him. With a .915 save percentage in his last eight games, he shows no signs of slowing down. Not too shabby, considering he's the "third-string."

As a matter of fact, the Canes as a whole have improved their play lately, going 2-0-1, although it could have easily been 3-0 if not for Saturday's tight battle against the Wild that resulted in a 3-2 shootout loss. Colorado will be their fourth opponent on a five-game home stretch.

Players I'm keeping an eye on:

  • Erik Johnson - The EJ we've seen this season is, at minimum, the EJ we're going to get for the rest of the year. I really believe it. But I'd like to believe it even more so please, Erik the Red Burgundy, do your thing for another night. And if you do continue to tear it up, you'll surely have Jan Hejda to thank.
  • Cory Sarich - At the start of the season I was worried he would be just another Zanon/O'Brien/O'Byrne copycat, but thus far he's managed to cope well. Still, he's worth watching as the lapses Flames fans warned us about have periodically occurred. I still have the utmost confidence in him as of right now because of Roy's system...but I'm just saying that he wouldn't be the first bottom-pairing D-man to come to Colorado only to eventually regress.
  • Nathan MacKinnon - I can't tell you how excited I am with Nathan. He still looks like a baby deer out there at times, but boy is he one 'roided out fawn. He's been playing better lately and was so close to tapping in an easy one last game - easy because he was in the right place at the right time.
(Subject to change)

BAD GUYS

Jiri Tlusty Eric Staal Alexander Semin
Nathan Gerbe Jordan Staal Tuomo Ruutu
Chris Terry Riley Nash Patrick Dwyer
Drayson Bowman Manny Malhotra Radek Dvorak

Andrej Sekera Justin Faulk
Brett Bellemore Ron Hainsey
Jay Harrison Ryan Murphy

Starter: Justin Peters (2.51 GAA, .915 SV%)
Mike Murphy (---, ---)

Out: Ward (lower-body), Gleason (upper), Westgarth (upper), Khudobin (IR), Skinner (IR)

GOOD GUYS

Ryan O'Reilly Matt Duchene P.A. Parenteau
Gabe Landeskog Paul Stastny Jamie McGinn
John Mitchell Nathan MacKinnon Maxime Talbot
Cody McLeod M.A. Cliche Patrick Bordeleau

Jan Hejda Erik Johnson
Nick Holden Nate Guenin
Andre Benoit Cory Sarich

Starter: Semyon Varlamov (2.00 GAA, .936 SV%)
J.S. Giguere (1.00 GAA, .970 SV%)

Out: Wilson (back), Tanguay (knee)

Check out the fine folks over at Canes Country for more coverage.

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5:00pm MT / 7:00pm ET

TV: ALT, SPSO

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