The Colorado Avalanche signed Jonathan Bernier this summer as a free agent, hoping he would be able to fill in as a reliable veteran backup during his tenure with the Central Division club after a fall from grace in Toronto.
His numbers haven’t been elite, but he’s been passable so far - and now, the team will get their biggest test with him in net so far.
Colorado will face the Minnesota Wild on Friday afternoon, and Bernier will be in net for his third consecutive game for the Avalanche when they do. Semyon Varlamov, while back to practicing with the team, is still recovering from an illness that took him out earlier in the week - so it’s time to see just how good Bernier has been at getting his game back.
Colorado has taken home wins in each of their last two games, which have come with Bernier in net.
The first was a tight comeback win against the Detroit Red Wings, in which Colorado’s offense saved the day (not necessarily Bernier’s sub-.900 save percentage in the outing). The second, though, was a shutout against the offense-heavy Dallas Stars - so there’s a chance that, with the way Minnesota has been playing, Colorado could come out with the win.
Keep an eye on Nail Yakupov. He’s currently down on the fourth line, getting moved around the lineup multiple times so far this season - but he’s been offensively improved over last year, so there’s still hope he’s getting his game back.
On the blue line, Samuel Girard is up on the top pairing, where he’ll be expected to take big shifts alongside Erik Johnson.
Minnesota’s biggest problem through the start of his season has been defensive depth.
The team’s third pairing options have been struggling immensely - so much so that the team is considering claiming Nate Prosser when he’s eventually placed on waivers by the St. Louis Blues.
Devan Dubnyk, on the other hand, has been absolutely unreal, making up for any defensive shortcomings. He posted three consecutive shutouts earlier in the month, and sits on a 9-6-2 record despite the team’s inconsistent defensive performance.
The expectation is that he’ll start in net for the Wild, although there’s been no confirmation just yet.
On offense, Nino Niederreiter has been absolutely dynamic this year - so he’s a big name to keep an eye on.
HOW TO WATCH
The game starts at 4:00 PM EST/3:00 PM CST, and will be broadcast on Altitude.