A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away this was some kind of rivalry. Now? Not so much. New Jersey is somewhat of a team without an identity. Franchise lynchpin Ilya Kovalchuk fled to Russia for all ze rubles and to replace him they signed ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr. All he's done this season is move into 7th on the All-Time Scorers list. Fat Marty Brodeur is still plying his "trade" though there are plenty of people (maybe even some within the organization) that wish he wasn't. When he isn't (and he's been splitting the starts in net for the Devils this season), big time summer acquisition Cory Schneider has been holding court with a 7-9-6 record. Not great, but his peripherals aren't bad: 1.96 GAA and 0.921 Save %.
Ryan Clowe left New Amsterdam during the offseason and moved to New Jersey for some crazy kwan. The new relationship started pretty meh and got worse when he suffered a concussion in game six of the season. Since returning just after Christmas he's been one of the 'Vils best players with seven points in his last five games. That's somewhat faint praise since New Jersey is among the league bottom producers at 2.33 goals per game and despite a recent 3-0-2 run are still on the outside looking in when it comes to the sad-sack Eastern Conference Playoff Party. You know the one: All the cool kids are invited, but they don't show so you get to pretend everyone else there has some measure of worthiness just so you don't drown in the waterfall of self pity that would otherwise overwhelm you? Yeah, that's the East this year.
Colorado. Well those guys have been playing good hockey against good teams and some pretty horrible hockey against some pretty horrible teams. The Avs are 6-2-2 in their last 10 and while that's a good looking record, it's really just a game over .500 with three of those losses coming against league doormats Calgary, the on-again-screw-it-we're-off-again Islanders, and the "We Coulda Been in the Metro!!!" Jets. Still, 6 wins is 6 wins and while the early season luster is off and Colorado has "regressed" to 3rd in an ACTUAL division populated by ACTUAL hockey teams, they still are in a spot for an automatic qualification for the post-season.
So, who's hot for the Avs? The hottest player on the team has never scored a goal in his professional career but he's been stoning would-be danglers and snipers all season. Of course I'm talking about Semyon Varlamov! That waste of a first round pick is currently 5th in the league in wins with 22 (remember how the Avs as a team only had 16 wins last season? Me neither), 6th in save % (0.927), and 2nd in actual saves. That means he's winning while seeing a lot of rubber. Sure the Avs are 6th in the league in goals per game (2.89) but they're also 24th in shots against per game (almost 32). Trade-bait Tyson Barrie has 3 goals and 3 assists in his last 5 games, including two OT winners. Nathan MacKinnon looks pretty damn good with his 8 points in his last 10 games, though he's been held off of the scoresheet in the last two. Pretty boy Gabriel Landeskog has 5 points in his last 5 games, and captain character himself, Ryan O`Reilly has 10 points in his last 10 while also holding the team lead for goals.
Of course the other storyline is who's not scoring for the Avs. Alex Tanguay is still hurt, as is P.A. Parenteau. They have excuses though with nagging lower-body injuries that have had them on the IR. Matt Duchene hasn't scored a goal in a game since December 19th. That's 12 games ago. It's so bad that when I saw a scouting report that talked about his scoring drought it wasn't until they made mention of a knee injury that I clued in to the fact that it was a report from 2012. In addition two-way wizard Paul Stastny is questionable for the game and we'll likely see another game of Franken-lines as Coach Roy tries to get Duchene some help while filling in top 6 holes with checking line guys. Plus Erik Johnson is "50-50" to go against the Devils per Roy.
Avalanche Projected Lines:
Who the hell knows. Varly could be on Duchene's wing for all I know. Cory Sarich, Johnson and Stastny are day-to-day. Parenteau may be ahead of schedule but won't play against the Devils, Karl Stollery is racking up more frequent flyer miles as he's been recalled in case Johnson can't go, and Guenin is still out. Varlamov probable to start as Giguere is still out with back spasms.
Devils Projected Lines:
No idea. Go see In Lou We Trust. Be nice. Laugh at their jokes. Don't wallow in the statistics if you don't want to. Be aware that Damien Brunner is now on that team and he still carries the eua de detoilet even if he did tell the franchise to go jump in Lake Michigan. He's on the IR with Patrik Elias though.
Scheider is gonna go in net.
Puck drop is 7 pm MT.