The Colorado Avalanche continue their brutal season-concluding stretch tonight against the St. Louis Blues, who are the hottest team in the Western Conference, winning ten of their last twelve games. The most remarkable part? They've recorded shutouts against their opponents the past four games, three by starting goalie (and briefly tenured Avalanche) Brian Elliot and one by backup Jake Allen. Colorado, trailing the Minnesota Wild by three points for the final Wild Card spot, are desperate for wins and will have to do so on the second night of a back-to-back.
Patrick Roy announced after the game last night Semyon Varlamov will be starting in net again, rejecting the commonly held belief among NHL coaches that goalies should never start two games in a row. Roy, however, has some solid justification: Varlamov this season is 5-0 in such games this season, recording a .949 save percentage. Perhaps he's due to regress, but there's no reason to turn away from your top guy this late in the season. These are desperate times with just six games remaining on the schedule.
Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon remain out, most likely through the end of the week, if not longer. The Avalanche will continue to lean on captain Gabriel Landeskog to replace their offense. He scored the second of Colorado's four goals last night and was the most dominant player on the ice. They'll need that kind of performance again against a St. Louis team that is well-positioned to be the second seed in the Western Conference.
They are led by all-world right-wing Vladimir Tarasenko who now has 35 goals and 65 points on the season. Third on the list is former teammate Paul Stastny with just 9 goals but 43 points on the year. The 30-year old center-iceman has six assists in his last four games and is playing some of his best hockey of the season. Brian Elliot is slated to get the start in net for the Blues, who last played against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday.
Without any rest or practice, it's likely Colorado rolls the same lines they did against Nashville. The puck drops at 6:30 PM Mountain Standard Time at the Scottrade Arena. It will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network.
Landeskog - Soderberg - Comeau
Matthias - Grigorenko - Boedker
Martinsen - Mitchell - Iginla
McLeod - Agozinno - Skille
Bigras - Johnson
Holden - Barrie
Zadorov - Beauchemin