It’s been quite the week for the Colorado Avalanche. First the team trades away a player that has been a cornerstone of the franchise for almost a decade then they head out across the Atlantic Ocean for some fun in Sweden. Luckily for us, it’s finally game time.
The Avalanche take on the Ottawa Senators this afternoon at the Eriksson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden in the first game of the NHL Global Challange series.
The two teams will be in action for the first time since signing a blockbuster trade that saw Matt Duchene say goodbye to the only team he’s ever cheered for. It will be a chance to see how he fits in with his new team, but more importantly, we’ll finally get an opportunity to see how the new-look Avs play without the distraction of a trade request hanging over their head.
So this is what the Colorado Avalanche are going to look like without Matt Duchene. Coach Bednar spoke this week about different players stepping up to fill the void as the team’s number two center. He spoke about J.T. Compher stepping into the role when he is fully healthy, but don’t be surprised if we see a revolving door including Compher, Tyson Jost, Alex Kerfoot and even newly acquired Vladislav Kamenev.
It looks like Kerfoot will get the first opportunity as Compher is eased back into the lineup. He will be in the lineup for the first time since breaking his thumb.
The Avs have four games to decide whether or not to keep Sam Girard up in the NHL for the rest of the season and it looks like he’ll be given every opportunity to prove he belongs. It looks like the centerpiece of the Duchene trade will start his Avalanche career on Tyson Barrie’s left side. Avs fans are going to get their first chance to see what all the hype is about and something tells me it won’t take them long to fall in love with Girard’s game. That paring of Girard and Barrie has the potential to be very very fun to watch.
Unfortunately, three of the four Swedish players on the Avalanche aren’t going to be able to play in front of the home crowd as Anton Lindholm and Patrik Nemeth are recovering from injuries while Carl Soderberg is back home in Denver waiting for the birth of his second child.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Sven Andrighetto - Alexander Kerfoot - Nail Yakupov
Matt Nieto - J.T. Compher - Blake Comeau
Gabriel Bourque - Colin Wilson - Rocco Grimaldi
Mark Barberio - Erik Johnson
Samuel Girard - Tyson Barrie
Nikita Zadorov - Chris Bigras
All the talk around the Ottawa Senators is how big of an impact Matt Duchene will have in their lineup. They’ve added an elite offensive talent but when you step back and look at their numbers, is Duchene really that much of an improvement over Kyle Turris? We’ll have to wait and see.
The Senators come into the game with a 6-3-5 record - leading the NHL in loser points. They've got the 4th worst possession numbers in the league and should not exactly strike fear in their opponents.
Unless of course, Erik Karlsson has the puck.
Mike Hoffman has points in his past six games and will start the game on Matt Duchene’s right side. That pair has the potential to cause a lot of havoc off the rush and in the offensive zone.
In Karlsson, Freddie Claesson and Johnny Oduya, half of the Senators blueline are Swedish, so you’d expect a little extra motivation this weekend.
Zack Smith - Matt Duchene - Mike Hoffman
Chris DiDomenico - Nate Thompson - Nick Paul
Fredrik Claesson - Erik Karlsson
Dion Phaneuf - Johnny Oduya
Since both teams have had a week off, we are expected to see the starting goalies in the net today with the backups going tomorrow.
Semyon Varlamov is the undoubted MVP for the Avalanche so far this season. He comes into the game with a 6-3-0 record and .911 sv%.
Across the ice, Craig Anderson will get the start for the Senators. Anderson has been struggling this season posting a .896 sv% and having lost 6 of the 11 games he’s started.
The Senators are one of the few teams that give up as many scoring chances as the Avalanche so hopefully, Anderson is going to be just as busy as Varly has been recently.
How to watch
The game starts at 2 pm Eastern, noon Mountain and will be broadcast on NHL Network as well as Altitude. It can be seen on TSN5 and NHL.tv for fans in Canada.
For those of you stuck at work, you can also listen to the game with our friend Marc Moser on Altitude Sports Radio 950AM