Preview: Panthers at Avalanche, Game 19

Joel Auerbach

Colorado welcomes the reeling Florida Panthers to the Pepsi Center in a classic trap game.

Two losses in a row.  Goals per game down.  Goals against up.  WAY UP.  Power play bad.  Penalty Kill worse. Happiness waning.  Colorado has not had a good week on the ice.  Solid play was unrewarded in Carolina and horrific play was responsible for the loss in St. Louis.  But the boys in burgundy are back in the Mile High City to clash with Eastern Conference punching bag Florida.

Sounds harsh, I know.  But it's hard to spin a 4-12-3 record (1-6-3 in last ten), a complete ax job on the coaching staff, and a fire sale notice for players.  Less than 20 games into the season and Panthers fans have seen a 9-game losing streak, a completely new head coach in Peter Horachek and Kris Versteeg sent back to Chicago. The Cats are in game 2 of a 5-game roadtrip around what used to be the Northwest division. They dropped a close game to the Wild on Friday night and come into Denver looking for just their 4th win against the West.  They played a strong game against the Wild, but couldn't break through after giving up 2 goals in the first, ultimately losing 3-2.

The Avs, for their part, have dropped two in a row for the first time this season and look to improve to 9-2 against the denizens of the East.  Colorado must put the road trip disaster behind them and focus on the two points available in Saturday's tilt.  Roy suggested that the drubbing at the hands of the Blues will humble and focus the team. Man, I hope he's right.  That was a downright painful game to watch, right up until I turned it off.  They need to make sure they are playing the Panthers tonight, and not worrying about the Blackhawks on Tuesday.  No need to squander two points just because it isn't a division game.

Players to watch:

  • Tim Thomas - Thomas surprised many with his signing in training camp with the Panthers.  So far, he's played his way into a starter's role due to the lackluster play of journeyman Scott Clemmensen and youngster Jakob Markstrom.  He enters tonight's game with a 3.08 GAA and 0.901 SV%.
  • Jonathan Huberdeau - A gifted forward we all are somewhat familiar with as he was taken #3 behind Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog in the 2011 Draft.  His 10 points (4G)  puts him 3rd on the team.
  • Nathan MacKinnon and Aleksander Barkov- #1 vs. #2 from last year's draft.  MacKinnon has decided that he's gonna shatter all shooting records and due to injury has found himself with more stable set-up men of late as he's been seeing time on the wing with Paul Stastny. Barkov hasn't seen a sheltered role and has been plugged right into the top line for the Cats.  He has 8 points (4 G) in 20 games.

Again, not certain about the lines tonight as there has been a little bit of in-game shuffling by both teams here and there and Florida is plugging new guys into new holes, but I'll go with what appears most likely.  Not sure on Sarich's status for the game so we may see Hunwick.  Feel free to correct me in the comments if need be (FLA lines courtesy of LBC's Todd Little):

BAD GUYS

Jonathan Huberdeau
Nick Bjugstad Tomas Fleischmann
Scottie Upshall
Aleksander Barkov
Brad Boyes
Tomas Kopecky
Marcel Goc Jesse Winchester
Sean Bergenheim
Shawn Matthias
Krys Barch or Jimmy Hayes
Brian Campbell
Tom Gilbert
Dmitri Kulikov
Mike Weaver
Erik Gudbranson Mike Mottau or Matt Gilroy
Tim Thomas (3.08 GAA, .901 SV%)
Scott Clemmensen (3.09 GAA, .877SV%)

Out: Scott Gomez (lower body), Matt Gilroy (healthy) Jimmy Hayes (new)

GOOD GUYS

Ryan O'Reilly Matt Duchene P.A. Parenteau
Gabe Landeskog Paul Stastny Jamie McGinn
John Mitchell Nathan MacKinnon Max Talbot
Cody McLeod M.A. Cliche Patrick Bordeleau
Jan Hejda Erik Johnson
Matt Hunwick Cory Sarich
Nick Holden Nate Guenin
Semyon Varlamov (2.13 GAA, .932 SV%)
J.S. Giguere (1.73 GAA, .947 SV%)

Out: Ryan Wilson (back), Alex Tanguay (knee), Andre Benoit (wrist)

Check out Litter Box Cats for more coverage.

Puck drops 7:00pm MT / 9:00pm ET
ALT2

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