The Colorado Avalanche have three more wins than the Chicago Blackhawks, yet sit three points behind in the Central Division. With one game in hand and the season nearing a close, is it really so ridiculous for us Avs fan to start thinking beyond just third place? However likely (or unlikely), the fact that we can even have this discussion one year after finishing second to last in the NHL is just another reminder what a remarkable job Patrick Roy and the new regime have done.
This is the fourth meeting out of five on the season, with Colorado leading the series 2-1. All three games have been exciting, albeit in three very different ways: On November, Colorado proved their hot start was no fluke by dismantling the defending Stanley Cup Champs 5-1. In December, Chicago responded by absolutely embarrassing the Avs 7-2. Jean-Sebastien Giguere was in net. Most recently on Jan. 14th, Colorado edged out in OT 3-2 thanks to Tyson Barrie's game-winning heroics and Semyon Varlamov's phenomenal performance. Barrie in particular has played well against the Blackhawks this season. Let's see if that trend continues tonight.
Nathan MacKinnon (22G, 27A) is one to keep an eye on, as usual. He is the hottest player in the league at the moment, with an 11 game point streak that included two assists in Sunday's 6-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was more than just your average win: the Avs honored the home crowd on the third annual Military Appreciation Night.
Semyon Varlamov (2.48 GAA, .925 SV%) and Corey Crawford (2.31 GAA, .918 SV%) are expected to start.
Injuries: Other than Alex Tanguay (hip) who we already know is out for the season, the Avs are completely healthy. Erik Johnson, who missed two games due to suspension, returned Sunday and made an impact with his typical smart and steady play. On the other side, Chicago is without veteran Marian Hossa (upper body). A strong possibility that the very capable Brandon Saad fills in for his wing.
Where: United Center, Chicago, IL
When: 6 PM MT / 8 PM EST
TV: Altitude, RDS, CSN-CH
Check out Second City Hockey for opposition coverage.