Since I clearly can't compete with yesterday's preview, I'm just going to switch into lazy staff writer mode instead. So... yeah. Here you go.
Puck Drop is at
4:30 5:00 PM MT. Adjust your Saturday activities appropriately.
COL: 32-13-5, 69pts in 50GP, 3rd in Conference III, played last night (@FLA, W)
TBL: 30-16-5, 65pts in 51GP, 2nd in Flortheast, played Thursday (OTT, L-SO)
Last meeting: Dec. 23, 2011. Kubina (TBL) and O'Reilly (COL) traded goals before Duchene scored the OT winner. I was at this game 8 rows above TBL's goal line. The Avs played like hell in the first, but Dutchy's goal at the end was a beauty.
Fun Fact: The Avs road win percentage is now .696, second to St. Louis by .004.
Biggest story with the Avs right now is who's starting in net tonight. Fact is, at this time, no one knows. It was supposed to be Giguere, but since the evil back-eating plague that we picked up from Chicago hotel rooms is acting up on him again, it could be Varlamov in net. It could be Sami Aittokallio, who the Avs recalled last night. Or it could still be Giguere. Or hell, maybe Roy will throw on the pads for old times' sake. I just hope if Sami gets the start tonight, he remembered to drink lots of water. We all remember what happened last time.
Matt Duchene is sitting at 99 career goals, and at the rate he's scoring, he'll probably retire before he gets to #100. It's okay though because his linemate, Ryan O`Reilly, is scoring up a storm, so Dutchy's still probably going to end up with somewhere in the neighborhood of eleventy billion assists by the time he hangs them up. McNab mentioned that O'Reilly is on pace for a 30 goal season. That's clearly different than 20, and it's probably going to bring some serious character bucks his way at the end of the year. He's sitting at #25 in the NHL in goal scoring, and Dutchy is 27th in points. Oh, and McGinn is on that line too, doing a hell of a job being big in front of the net - hey hey hey! - and clearing space for the western wunderkids of the '09 draft.
The rumor goin' 'round is that Tanguay might sit today as a way to ease him back into after his recent injuries, but after the game he had last night, I doubt it happens. His passing is still something to behold, and he makes our powerplay approximately 4000% better. He even had an assist on Stastny's goal, and the team is 14-1-0 with him in the lineup (fuck the redwings). Speaking of Stastny, that was his 14th tally of the year, and he has 12pts in his last 8GP. He just jumped over his linemate, Captain Landy, to move to #2 in team in scoring last night. Guess it's time to pull off that Bozak and a 2nd trade!
MacKinnon continues to look spiffy and is tied with Duchene in goals, Parenteau looks pretty good after returning from injury, and Talbot is still doing his thing. This line is just gravy. Not many teams get a 3rd scoring line, and I'm just happy we're healthy enough to see it. The 4th line could even get a boost from Mitchell tonight as well. He's flying in for today's game after his bout with the flu, but he may or may not play. If he does return to the lineup, Cliche or Bordeleau are the likely scratches, but it could also allow Roy to rest Tanguay if he sees fit.
On defense, Sarich is still on IR for his back and probably won't play until after the Olympic break, and Guenin is close to returning after a bad ankle bruise. He was listed as a scratch last night, so I believe he's on the trip, and if Wilson has another game like last night, Guenin could return sooner than later. On the other hand, Nick Holden is playing very well, and I believe he had an assist taken away from him after secondary review last night. Oh well - he's still making things happen on the ice right now.
Anywho, projected lineup:
A Netminder-Type Person TBD
Big news for them is that Steven Stamkos is still out with his ouchie, so he won't be playing tonight. He's targeting early February for his return and has been skating with the club. Since he went down in game 17, the Lightning have gone 18-11-5 (.603). While that's not quite as good as the 12-5-0 (.706) they were with him, it certainly could be worse. In his absence, new captain Martin St. Louis is leading the team at a PPG pace (25G / 26A / 51pts in 51GP). Former red wing scum Valtteri Filppula is in 2nd with 38 and Teddy Purcell is 3rd with 32.
The next name on the scoring list though is an interesting one - Tyler Johnson. The rookie is sitting only 2 points behind Baby Mac for newbie scoring leader. Here's a nice article about it that also talks about how our teams both went from OMG MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP last year to near playoff locks this season. Jon Cooper - their new head coach - sounds like a cool dude and says nice things about Roy.
That article, for all its strong points, does leave out the most critical aspect for both these coaches - goaltending. The old saying is still true - show me a good goalie, and I'll show you a good coach. Ben Bishop is rocking a .934 Sv% right now (1st in the NHL), and Varly is only 5 spots behind him with a .926. Bishop's also 3rd in GAA with a 1.96 (Varly's 15th), and they both have very high PDOs with similar GP. Bishop's probable for tonight, so we might get to see him first hand. Either way, these two basically have their coach's Jack Adams chances on their backs, so it will be interesting to see how they handle the rest of the season.
This was the only site I could find to help me figure out their lineup, so here ya go:
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Martin St. Louis
Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Teddy Purcell
Nikita Kucherov - Nate Thompson - J.T. Brown
Ryan Malone - B.J. Crombeen - Keith Aulie
Victor Hedman - Sami Salo
Matt Carle - Radko Gudas
Mark Barberio - Eric Brewer
BOOM! Preview done. Again, puck drop is at 5:00PM MT.