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Game 18: Colorado Avalanche @ New York Rangers

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The continuing struggle that is the Colorado Avalanche (4-8-5) visit the New York Rangers (7-6-2) at Madison Square Garden on Thursday November 13th, 2014.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The First game I covered for Mile High Hockey was a week ago. The Avs were coming off their worse loss emotionally of the season. This is my third game preview and yet again the Avs are coming off their worse loss of the season. This time though, it was bad. Real bad.

Maybe the Avs should petition to not play on Tuesday nights, because they have yet to win a game on Tuesday or maybe they should just petition for a time machine. I'm an eternal optimist (even in 2011 and 2013), but there's was just nothing positive to take from the Avs 6-0 loss against the Islanders Tuesday. The Avs couldn't do anything right and for the first time this year, they really seemed like they didn't care and gave up on the game. I don't want to dwell on Tuesday though, because the road ahead is not getting any easier.

The Avs opponent Thursday night is the New York Rangers, a team that just demolished the Pittsburgh Penguins' seven game winning streak with a 5-0 beatdown on home ice. In the game, Henrik Lunqvist stop all 33 shots that the leagues most effective offense put his way to notch his league leading third shutout of the year. Rick Nash tallied a couple assists to go along with his league leading 12th goal of the season which came short-handed against the Penguins powerhouse of a power play in the third. After a couple less than stellar seasons in New York, Nash is becoming the major offensive tool that the Rangers hoped he would be when they acquired him from Columbus. Couple that offensive skill with the Rangers strong defense and goaltender and you can see why the Rangers may just be the last team the Avs want to be facing Thursday night.

LINES:

Though a line-up change is probably needed, the only healthy person the Avs can plug into the line-up is Danny Briere. With that, expect the same lines with the slight chance that Roy makes a move and let's Briere into the line-up.

O'Reilly-Duchene-McGinn

Landeskog-MacKinnon-Iginla

Tanguay-Mitchell-Everberg

McLeod-Cliche-Talbot

Hejda-Johnson

Guenin-Barrie

Holden-Redmond

Varlamov

Berra

NOTES:

- After going all season last year without being shutout, the Avs have been shutout in three games less than a quarter into the season.

- Despite giving up five power play goals in the last three games, the Avs still have the fifth best penalty kill in the NHL.

- Avs captain, Gabriel Landeskog has just two assists in the last seven games.

- The Avs have been shorthanded more times than any other team in the NHL. Simply put: the Avs need to be more discipline.

- Only the Buffalo Sabres have allowed more shots against than the Avalanche.

Questions:

Q: Will the Avs make a roster move?

A: I don't know if the Avs will make a roster move, but they certainly need to. Whether it's a trade or a call-up or simply inserting a guy like Danny Briere into the line-up, the Avs coach/GM needs to do something to spark this team before it really starts sinking. A coach by any other name would be on the hot seat right now.

Q: Will the top six start scoring?

A: The Avs have just three goals in their last five from their top two lines. The chemistry just hasn't seemed to be there all year for those lines no matter what the combination of players has been. There's just too much talent on those lines for this to keep happening. But the goals will only come if those players are willing to commit to playing defensive hockey, and so far this year that just hasn't happened.

Q: Are the Avs missing Paul Stastny?

A: Yes. Hindsight is always 20/20, but after the first 17 games, it's easy to look back at the Avs decisions this offseason and say they lost. Management essentially made the Sophie's Choice of centers this offseason and they choose Ryan O'Reilly. Looking back, it may have been the wrong choice. For years people pointed at Stastny's stats and contract and said that he needed to be traded, but in that they missed exactly what Stastny brought to the team. Stastny was an established young leader with a stellar two-way game and fantastic passing skills that made everyone around him better (Hell, David Jones has two 20-goal seasons along side Stastny). Imagine the roster the Avs could have right now if they had kept Stastny and traded O'Reilly. That magical line from the Wild series would still be around. Yes, I see the support for MacKinnon at center, but I have long been a supporter of MacKinnon as a winger if he got to play alongside Stastny. Yes, Stastny would have cost money, but even with Stastny's price, the Avs may have been able to afford to go after a player like Iginla.

Disagree with me if you like, but if you look at the Avs' weakest parts in their game this year (passing, back checking, forechecking), they are all things that Stastny excelled at. Dips in plus/minus and PDO among players like Ryan O'Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog aren't merely signs of back luck, but of the absence of a solid two-way center like Stastny buffering the Avs against the other team's top lines.

The Avs can't change the past though. Stastny is with the Blues now, and the Avs have to find a way to fill his void. How they will do so, only time will tell.

GAME INFO:

Game time: 5pm, MT

TV: ALT, NHLN

If the Avs don't want this season to slip down the tubes, this needs to be their theme song for the rest of the year. Queue the Bleachers: