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Game 56: Avalanche at Rangers

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The Avalanche look for their 5th consecutive win, and to take a step closer to the Central Division lead.

Bruce Bennett

I don't think I can do anything here to top c6hor8's brilliant recap from last night, so I think I'm going to play this one straight MHH.  Before we get into the details of this game, however, I think it's worth taking a brief pause to look at where the Avalanche sit in the NHL today:

Western Standings

Anaheim Ducks 58 40-13-5 85
Chicago Blackhawks 58 34-10-14 82
St. Louis Blues 54 37-12-5 79
Colorado Avalanche 55 36-14-5 77
San Jose Sharks 57 35-16-6 76
Los Angeles Kings 58 30-22-6 66
Minnesota Wild 57 29-21-7 65
Vancouver Canucks 57 27-21-9 63
Phoenix Coyotes 55 26-19-10 62
Dallas Stars 55 25-21-9 59
Nashville Predators 57 25-23-9 59
Winnipeg Jets 57 27-25-5 59
Calgary Flames 55 21-27-7 49
Edmonton Oilers 58 19-33-6 44

That's 4th in the Western Conference. Fifth in the NHL, and with at least one game in hand on every team ahead of them (except the Blues) things could, possible, get even better.  While it's a treat to see the Avs amongst the NHL's leaders, the real beauty of this season is a little bit closer to home:

Central Standings

Chicago 58 34 10 14 82
St. Louis 54 37 12 5 79
Colorado 55 36 14 5 77
Minnesota 57 29 21 7 65
Dallas 55 25 21 9 59
Nashville 57 25 23 9 59
Winnipeg 57 27 25 5 59

(updated 2.4.2014 at 7:25 AM MST)

The Avalanche are only 2 points back of the Blues (with a 1 game lead) and 5 points back of the Blackhawks (with 3 games in hand).  Win tonight and we, the lowly "Toronto West" (supposedly) would tie the "NHL dominant" St. Louis Blues in points and move to within 3 points of the Blackhawks with two games still in hand.  But hold on, it gets better.  The Avalanche lead the Blues by a pair of ROWs in the tiebreaker and, win the first two tiebreakers against the Hawks, holding an impressive 5 ROWs over the defending cup champions and leading the season series 2-1.  The only thing, the ONLY thing separating the Avalanche from the Hawks right now is Chicago's ridiculous, league leading 14 loser points. We lead the Blackhawks in wins, and ROWs and with a strong finish to this pre-Olympic trip, we could be breathing right down the backs of their necks.

So, on to tonight's game.  It's been a long time since the Avalanche last made the trek to Madison Square Garden.  In their last visit, the Avalanche beat the Rangers 3-1 with a roster that included the likes of Ryan O`Byrne, Shane O`Brien, Peter Mueller, David Jones, and Jay McClement.  This team is... needless to say, more talented than that one. The biggest contribution, and probably best highlight as an Av, however, came from Matt Hunwick:

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The team, was in the midst of a final push for a low playoff spot, this one visits New York sitting just a few points away from the top of the Central Division with a 15 point cushion on the 9th place team in the West.  The Avalanche are riding a 4-game win streak into the Big Apple and are the NHL's 2nd hottest team, going 8-2 in their last 10 (Toronto: 8-1-1).  Despite the win in New Jersey last night, the Avalanche did not play a great game against the Devils. They were sloppy with their passes, turnover prone, and as a result wound up battling hard for 60+ minutes while double shifting players from their top 3 lines.  It seems doubtful that either Alex Tanguay or Paul Stastny will return to the lineup tonight, so it will be a quick turnaround for the Avs, who will play 11F 7D for the second consecutive night.  That means more double shifting for the likes of Ryan O`Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog, who both played in excess of 20 minutes last night.  Patrick Bordeleau played 4:09 and Ryan Wilson played 3:10 seconds.  It just seems like there has got to be a way to get more out of your 4th line and spare your top guys some in a road back-to-back.  Oh well.  Semyon Varlamov gets the start in this second of back-to-back games.  Varlamov will likely be the starter against the Flyers and Islanders later this week.

Avalanche Projected Lineup:

Jamie McGinn - Matt Duchene - Ryan O'Reilly

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - P.A. Parenteau

Cody McLeod - John Mitchell - Max Talbot

Patrick Bordeleau/Double shifted forward - Marc Andre Cliche - Ryan Wilson/Double shifted forward

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie

Nate Guenin - Andre Benoit

Semyon Varlamov

After an abysmal start to the season, the New York Rangers have righted the ship considerably.  Because of their placement in the league-worst Metropolitan Division, the Rangers weren't punished for their poor start, and now sit in 2nd place in their division with 63 points.  The Rangers have been good lately, winning 7 of their last 10 games, and outscoring the opposition 13-5 on their current 3-game win streak.  The Rangers have not been particularly offensive this season, sitting 20th in goals scored, but they boast some impressive defense and goaltending, with names like Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Henrik Lundqvist.  The Rangers are 8th in the NHL in goals against, and, while Lundqvist has struggled at times, they have benefitted from some very solid goaltending from backup net-minder Cam Talbot.

Rangers Projected Lineup:

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan

Benoit Pouiliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Brian Boyle - Dominic Moore - Dan Carcillo

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Anton Stralman

John Moore - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Quick Hits:

  • The Rangers do not have a 20 goal or 40 point scorer yet this season. The Avalanche have two 20 goal men (O'Reilly and MacKinnon) and four 40 point scorers (Duchene, Landeskog, MacKinnon, O'Reilly).  Rick Nash has 18 goals, including 4 in his last 5 games, while Richards, Zuccarello and Stastny are all poised to break the 40 point mark (39 points each).
  • Ryan Callahan is reportedly asking for $7M a year on a longterm contract.  That's a lot of money for a guy with just 21 points on the season...  If he gets that dollar value then prepare to pay Ryan O'Reilly eleventy-billion dollars a year.
  • Nathan MacKinnon has 8 points in his career long 5-game point streak (3G 5A).  He has 12 points in his last 8 games (5G 7A)
  • Tyson Barrie is also riding a 5-game point streak, with 2 goals and 4 assists.
  • Gabriel Landeskog has 8 points in a 6-game point streak (2G 6A).
  • Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene are both on 4-game point streaks.
  • Matt Duchene's next goal will be the 100th of his career.
Puck Drops at 7:00 PM EST 5:00 PM MST