After going through a roller coaster of emotions last night, the Colorado Avalanche are right back at it today. The team is in Dallas to take on the Stars in their first divisional matchup of the season. The Avs come in with a 4-1 record having won three straight games - a streak that is longer than any they had all of last season.
The Stars, on the other hand, come into the game with a 1-3 record and will be looking to take advantage of a fatigued Avalanche team. The Stars have struggled to score through the early part of the season, but they have the offensive talent to break out at any moment.
Coach Bednar had good news and bad news after the game last night. The good news is that Nathan MacKinnon is fine after taking a stick to the eye - he is expected to play tonight. The bad news is that the Avs are expected to be without rookie Tyson Jost again tonight.
So far this season, Patrik Nemeth has been a revelation for the Avs. After being picked up on waivers on the eve of the season, the big Swede has been a quiet but steady presence on a blueline that needed it. He’s been contributing in all situations and has looked like the perfect compliment for Tyson Barrie. Nemeth will return to Dallas looking to impress the team that drafted him.
After two assists last night, Sven Andrighetto leads the Avs in scoring so far this season with six points and has proven to be the perfect compliment for MacKinnon and Rantanen on the top line. After being acquired at last year’s trade deadline, the young Swiss forward has 24 points in 26 games and is proving the Montreal Canadiens gave up on him way too early.
Along with that top line, the pair of Matt Duchene and Nail Yakapov have found a level of chemistry that neither has had with a linemate in a long while. Playing with rookie Alex Kerfoot, the three have looked dynamic every night and give the Avs a very dangerous top-6 forward group.
If MacKinnon is, in fact, ready to go, we should expect the same lineup from last night. That said, each of Yak, Andrighetto and Rantanen were banged up in the game against the Ducks, so there’s the possibility one of them woke up feeling worse for wear and unable to go tonight. After playing last night, the team likely won’t have much of a morning skate so we likely won’t know of any lineup changes until game time.
Of course, since the Avs carry 8 defensemen, there’s always the possibility that either Anton Lindholm or Andrei Mironov draw into the lineup tonight.
In the off-season, the Dallas Stars were the darlings of the league. They made moves that signalled they were “going for it”.
Now, they’ve played four games and sit with a 1-3 record on the early season. It’s not exactly the start most expected with a relatively light schedule in terms of Central Division matchups.
The underlying statistics are good for Dallas. Possession, scoring chances, high danger chances...basically, everything says Dallas should be scoring almost at will. Instead, they are also rocking a low PDO (so they’ve been unlucky) and a really, really low shooting percentage as a team.
These two things seem to indicate that the Stars are due for some regression - in a good way. They’re due for a breakout offensive game. The question is who that will be against - and whether it comes tonight against a team riding an absurd shooting and save percentage early in the season.
As for the defense, it looks like Ken Hitchcock is going to shuffle things around a little bit, moving Marc Mathot to the top pair with John Klingberg. At practice yesterday, the other defense pairs looked like this:
Esa Lindell-Julius Honka
Dan Hamhuis-Stephen Johns
Jamie Oleksiak-Greg Pateryn
After missing the past two games, Dan Hamhuis is questionable with a groin injury and will be a game-time decision.
After getting the night off against the Ducks, Semyon Varlamov is going to be back in the crease for the Avs tonight. He has been great so far this season sporting a 3-0 record and an even more impressive .945 sv% this season. Varlamov is healthy and playing up to his potential. When he’s on his game, he has the talent to be one of the best goalies in the league and he’s proving it so far this season.
Across the ice, we’ll see Ben Bishop for the Stars. After being brought in to shore up the goaltending position in Dallas, Bishop is off to a good start with this new team. Though it was derailed by a head injury (whatever you do, don’t Google “Ben Bishop cut”), Bishop has looked good early in the season putting up a .932 sv%.
Both goalies have played well so far this season and their teams aren’t giving up many goals against - so of course, we should probably expect a 6-4 barn burner tonight.
How to Watch/Listen
As always the game will be on, puck drop at 6:00 pm MST. For those of you looking for a different perspective, you can catch the Stars broadcast on NHL.tv
You can also listen to the game with our friend Marc Moser on Altitude Sports Radio 950AM.