The Avs will face the Dallas Stars for the final time of the regular season this evening. Dallas stands in 10th place, only two spots out of the playoffs, and only 6 points behind 8th place Minnesota. The Avs are sitting at a solid 5th in the conference with 69 points, but LA, Vancouver, and Minnesota are starting to sniff at our heels, and all are within 7 points back. Time to keep up that nice play, boys!
In the first four meetings between these two teams, the Avs have come out on top 3-1 in the series. However, three of those games have been 1-point games. This season has been pretty rough-and-tumble affairs with the Stars, and tensions have been running high: a total of 41 penalties for 112 minutes in those four games alone, including a Gabriel Landeskog bout against Alex Chiasson. Last game on December 17, a loss for the Avalanche, was especially chippy with 7 penalties taken per team (including a Dallas double minor) and a different fight. We could see a lot of grumpiness on the ice tonight, especially with teams starting to feel that playoff push coming up.
The Stars are coming off of three wins in a row, scoring tons of goals against their opponents. Over those three, they've kept the Wild, the Leafs, and the Penguins to a combined 1 goal, while putting 14 goals up themselves. Kari Lehtonen has faced 67 shots. Jamie Benn has led the scoring with 6 points, but defensemen Alex Goligoski and Sergei Gonchar have helped considerably with 5 and 4 points respectively. One could say that they are playing pretty well at the moment.
The Avs have been doing all right, winning a three of their last five games, but they haven't looked quite themselves. The recent, and already much-discussed, additions of P.A. Parenteau and Alex Tanguay from the injured reserve has given the Avs the firepower they need to explode on offense, but the adjustment seems to be taking a little bit of time. The game against the Stars should be a good test: Semyon Varlamov, who has played very well against the Stars this season, should be in net, and Tangs (who had last night off last night to be sure he was well rested) should be back in the lineup. Nathan MacKinnon has averaged a point a game for five points over the last five games, and Nick Holden and Ryan O'Reilly each snagged four.
A couple of players to keep an eye out for this game are Dallas players Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverly. They have combined for 9 points against the Avs in the first four games. On the other side, Paul Stastny has 6 points in the first four, helped by his 4 point night during a 6-2 victory on December 16. Also doing well is PAP with 5 points in those four games against, and Matt Duchene, who also has 5 points against. I would very much like to see Dutchie have a huge game tonight; his good play should be rewarded by getting his name on the score sheet.
Projected Avs Lineup:
Jamie McGinn – Matt Duchene – Ryan O'Reilly
Alex Tanguay – Paul Stastny – Gabe Landeskog
Nick Holden – Tyson Barrie
Semyon Varlamov, J.S. Giguere, Sami Aittokallio
Projected Stars Lineup:
Tyler Seguin – Jamie Benn – Valeri Nichushkin
Rich Peverly – Shawn Horcoff – Alex Chaisson
Trevor Daley – Alex Goligoski
Aaron Rome – Sergei Gonchar
Brendon Dillon – Jordie Benn
Kari Lehtonen, Dan Ellis
If you're itching for another perspective, go check out Defending Big D. See you all at 6:30pm MT! Go Avs Go!