It’s been a rough few weeks for the Colorado Avalanche. The team has lost four straight games and only have one win in their past seven games. After a surprising start, the team is now two games below .500 and have settled into last place in the Central - five points behind the Chicago Blackhawks.
It’s a bit of a special game for the Avs best defenseman. Tonight marks a milestone as Erik Johnson will play his 400th game in an Avalanche uniform.
The Avs will visit a Florida Panthers team that is also struggling near the bottom of their conference and are now trying to overcome the loss of their starting goalie.
Colorado is catching the Panthers at the right time as star forward Aleksander Barkov has been out of the lineup with an upper-body injury (concussion).
This is a game the Avalanche absolutely need to win as they take a trip through Pittsburgh and Washington later this week.
The biggest problem for the Avalanche over this losing streak has been offensive production. The team is averaging only one even-strength goal over the four games and have been relying entirely too much on Nathan MacKinnon.
The Avs need to find a way to kick-start the 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines.
After a great start, Alex Kerfoot has cooled off significantly and he seems to be having trouble transitioning into the 2C role vacated by Matt Duchene.
Coach Bednar is going to go with the same 11 forward/7 defenseman lineup he iced Thursday night. This means that Nail Yakupov will spend his second straight game in the press box.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Tyson Jost - Alexander Kerfoot - J.T. Compher
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau
Sven Andrighetto - Colin Wilson
Nikita Zadorov - Erik Johnson
Patrik Nemeth - Tyson Barrie
Samuel Girard - Mark Barberio
The Panthers come into the game sitting sixth in the Atlantic Division with an 11-3-4 record.
The Panthers shoot a lot. They rank fourth in the NHL in shots per game. Vinny Trocheck continues to be one of the most underrated players in the league. He leads the team in scoring with 12 goals and 29 points. Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau are going to have to pick up the slack while the team’s best player battles through concussion issues.
With Barkov and Evgeny Dadonov out of the lineup, the Panthers are missing two of their top-4 scorers
Ths is a team that lacks a lot of depth - especially up front. If you can shut down their big guys, you’ll have a high likelihood of success.
Jonathan Huberdeau - Vincent Trocheck - Nick Bjugstad
Jamie McGinn - Jared McCann - Denis Malgin
Dryden Hunt - Colton Sceviour - Radim Vrbata
Michael Haley - Derek McKenzie - Connor Brinkley
Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad
Michael Matheson - Mark Pysyk
Ian McCoshen - Alex Petrovic
We are going to see Semyon Varlamov back in net tonight before the goalies split the back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday. Varly comes into the game with a .903 sv% and has come back down to earth after a very hot start to the season.
After losing Roberto Luongo to a serious groin injury earlier this week, the Panthers are going to be relying on James Reimer for the foreseeable future. Reimer will be between the pipes tonight and he will be looking to improve upon his .892 sv%. Reimer has 5-6-3 record so far this season.
How to Watch/Listen
As always the game will be on Altitude, puck drop at 5:00 pm MST. For those of you looking for a different perspective, you can catch the Dallas broadcast on FS-Florida and NHL.tv.
You can also listen to the game with our friend Marc Moser on Altitude Sports Radio 950AM.