The Colorado Avalanche have lost three of its last four games. The good news? It was against the top two teams in each of the Western Conference divisions, they got three points, and it was all without starting goalie Semyon Varlamov, who was tending to a legal matter. After a few days of practice, the team has deemed him worthy again of action and he'll get the nod tonight against the visiting Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets, after a decent start to the season, have fallen off considerably. They've lost three of their last ten games, including a 2-1 affair against the Avs on January 18th, and are in the difficult position of having to decide what to do with the rest of their season. Nine points out of a playoff position, it's certainly not impossible they make a run, but it's more likely they'll look to trade impending free agents Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien before the February 29th trade deadline.
In the meantime, Blake Wheeler leads the Jets and is tied for 11th in the NHL in scoring with 48 points. Brian Little leads the team with 15 goals and is second on the team in scoring with 38 points. Rookie goaltender Connor Hellebuyck gave the Avalanche fits in the last matchup, stopping 32 of 34 shots on goal despite the loss. He started last night against Carolina, giving up three goals in just six shots, before being pulled for Michael Hutchinson. As of this writing, Winnipeg has not announced a starter for tonight's game. We will update the article when the information becomes available.
Colorado is making some changes as well after a few subpar team performances. Patrick Roy in Thursday's press conference inferred that neither Jarome Iginla nor Alex Tanguay were cutting it on the top line (oh, really?). The team has announced both will play on a line centered by John Mitchell. Whether we consider that the 3rd or 4th line will come down to ice time. Who's moved up into that top-line LW spot with Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene? The team hasn't announced it, but Mikhail Grigorenko got some well-deserved run on that line toward the end of Thursday's game, and my money is on him starting there when the puck drops. With neither Mitchell or Grigorenko centering Cody McLeod and Jack Skille, I also bet Andreas Martinsen takes a seat again in favor of Chris Wagner.
Who should be in the lineup right now? How about this one guy down in San Antonio who had four points in a 5-2 victory last night?
With tonight's 4-point effort, Mikko Rantanen takes over the team lead in goals (14), assists (22), points (36), & +/- (+24) in 28 games.— Dan Weiss (@DanWeissPBP) February 6, 2016
Guys, it may take an injury for it to happen, but there's no way the team isn't noticing what Rantanen is doing to the AHL as a 19-year old. It's fairly unprecedented.
***Late News: Jack Skille will sit out with concussion symptoms. Andreas Martinsen will take his place on the 4th line. Also, Andrew Bodnarchuck gets the nod tonight on the 3rd pairing with Chris Bigras.
Grigorenko - MacKinnon - Duchene
Landeskog - Soderberg - Comeau
Tanguay - Mitchell - Iginla
McLeod - Wagner -
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Beauchemin - Johnson
Holden - Barrie
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Late one: Hockey Night in Canada. 8:00 PM MST start.