Following their first in-season road trip to Vegas - that’d they certainly want to forget - the Colorado Avalanche return to Denver to face the Chicago Blackhawks who are coming into town after facing the Predators in Chicago the night before.
The early season standings show the Avs and ‘Hawks in close company in a crowded Central Division. Nobody has exactly taken a stranglehold on the early season, though the Blues have separated themselves a tad. This is the first meeting of the Avs and ‘Hawks for this season. Chicago has been mediocre on the road this year (2-2-1) while the Avs have actually been winning at home (3-1-0) for a refreshing change from last season.
Despite icing some pretty lackluster squads in recent years, Colorado has typically played well against Chicago and provided fans with some exciting hockey. Hopefully, that trend continues as the #youngerfaster movement takes its next steps. Though with both squads playing the tail end of a back-to-back there exists the possibility that the game comes out flat.
Early season nagging injuries continue to plague the Avalanche up and down the lineup. Colin Wilson wasn’t in the Vegas game due and now he and Gabriel Bourque have been put on the IR. One question is whether Coach Bednar will juggle lines again or try to allow some more chemistry to be found with the lineup that got the W in Dallas earlier in the week. Will Matt Nieto or Alexander Kerfoot add to their early success? Personally, I’d like to see an explosive game from MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Andreghetto. The team has called up Andrew Agozzino and Rocco Grimaldi from San Antonio, Grimaldi will be in the lineup, but it sounds like Agozzino will be a healthy scratch.
There is some good news. Alex Kerfoot skated this morning and feels fine after taking a huge hit near the end of last night’s game. Expect the lines to look something like this.
Sven Andrighetto - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - Nail Yakupov
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau
A.J. Greer - Alex Kerfoot - Rocco Grimaldi
Patrik Nemeth was back in the lineup against the Golden Knights after nursing a shoulder injury, but Avalanche blueliner Nikita Zadarov watched the game from the pressbox as a healthy scratch. Big Z will not slot back into the lineup but Andrei Mironov will be in replacing Chris Bigras. Erik Johnson looks to continue munching minutes as the anchor of the defensive corps.
Anton Lindholm - Erik Johnson
Patrik Nemeth - Tyson Barrie
Mark Barberio - Andrei Mironov
The ‘Hawks come into the Mile High City (to a no doubt warm reception from the transplant fans...) fresh from a home tilt against Nashville. They’re led on the scoresheet by some familiar faces: Patrick Kane (5G 7A), Brandon Saad (6 G 3 A), and Jonathan Toews (3G 5 A). Also at the top of their leaderboard are Ryan Hartman (3G 6A) and Richard Panik (5G 3A).
Panik, in particular, has been deadly on the power play with 3 goals. The ‘Hawks overall man-advantage numbers are 15.9% (prior to Friday), so not all that different from Colorado’s 15%. Both squads have benefited from plenty of chances as well (44 and 40 respectively).
The Blackhawks haven’t looked like world-beaters out of the gate this season and were pretty bleh against the Golden Knights leading to a 4-2 loss. Coach Quenneville is juggling lines leading up to the Predators game, so who knows what the lineup will be like come Saturday night as he tries to correct some possession and effort issues.
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Alex Dibrincat
Richard Panik - Nich Schmaltz - Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp - Artem Anisimov - John Hayden
Lance Bouma - Tommy Wingels - Ryan Hartman
Chicago’s blueline is again the Duncan Keith show as he’s racked up 7 assists in 10 games. Fellow stud blueliner Brent Seabrook isn’t to be overlooked either with 5 points, though he is carrying a -2 on the season. Both of them are averaging north of 30 minutes a game but were split up for the Predators game. It’ll be interesting to see if Coach Q reunites them so he can ride his horses or if he continues to keep them apart. There’s almost no chance he leans more heavily on rookie Connor Murphy and the relatively inexperienced Michal Kempny.
Duncan Keith - Jan Ruuta
Gustav Forsling - Brent Seabrook
Michal Kempny - Connor Murphy
Being the backend of the B2B, Jonathan Bernier will take netminder duties after Semyon Varlamov got the start in Vegas. Bernier enters the contest with 1 win and 2 losses as a starter, a GAA just over 3 and a .894 save percentage. He’s given up 9 goals total in his 3 starts.
Similar to the Avs, I expect the backup goalie Anton Forsberg to get the nod in net. He enters the game sporting a 2.81 GAA and 0.929 save percentage. He’s started only two games for the ‘Hawks in lieu of Corey Crawford and is still looking for his first win of the season.
How to Watch/Listen
As always the game will be on Altitude, puck drop at 7:00 pm MDT. For those of you looking for a different perspective, you can catch the ‘Hawks NBC Sports Chicago broadcast on NHL.tv
You can also listen to the game with our friend Marc Moser on Altitude Sports Radio 950AM.