As far as the outcome goes, it might as well be Vic vs Bernie. It absolutely does not matter (though I’d put my money on Bernie). Jeremy wrote a great article yesterday about not putting too much stock into the preseason, you can read it here - Don’t Put Stock into Colorado Avalanche Preason
However, that being said, there are still many things to look for in tonight’s game.
With one game under their belt, the Avs will look for a little more consistent play and to take advantage on the power-play. In Tuesday’s game they went 1 for 8 on the power-play which, to put it bluntly, is not great. Coach Bednar did mention they didn’t work on the power-play as much in practice last week but should be a main focus going forward.
The Stars won their first exhibition against the Blues on Tuesday with a score of 5-3.
We will see a different Avalanche squad tonight than the one we saw on Tuesday. The big change here is that Matt Duchene looks like he’s slated to dress. This will be quite the awkward moment the first time he steps on Pepsi Center ice in front of the hometown fans. I imagine the crowd will give him a standing applause, something he deserves in Colorado.
Our captain, great captain, Gabriel Landeskog will be in the lineup tonight, as well as former #1 2012 draft pick Nail Yakupov. Yakupov looked great in the Burgundy & White game, tonight will be a good test to see if he still looks the part against our divisional foe Dallas Stars.
On defense we get to see Barberio on the ice. Sames goes for Anton Lindholm. Both guys were in the lineup at the end of last season and Barberio is really the only one that has solidified a spot on the blue line.
As of this mornings practice, the lines look to shake out like this:
Update: Nikita Zadorov finalized his papers and reports have him being in Denver by today. He’ll need to skate a few days in practice but I anticipate him being in the lineup for Saturdays game against the Minnesota Wild.
1. That Duchene/Yakupov/Kerfoot line will be really interesting. Coach Bednar has really liked this pairing in practice and should be one of the most effective lines for the Avalanche tonight.
2. Compher centering Landy and Ghetto has some really great potential. Compher played wing in the Rookie Showcase and he’s slated to play center tonight. He played center during his short stint with the Avs last year but with the addition of Colin Wilson and, for the time being, Duchene and Mack also as centers, Bednar has some tough choices on who plays up the middle.
Varly looks to get the nod tonight. He didn’t look great in the Burgundy & White game but this is what exhibition games are for, to kick off the rust and regain his mobility. I don’t expect him stand on his head all game, but as long as we see him moving from pipe to pipe with relative ease I will be happy with it.
In their first game, the Stars featured most of their top line guys. Tonight the Stars are bringing the B squad. No Benn, no Seguin, no Radulov. But we shouldn’t underestimate the Stars, they have depth. Especially on the blue line. Stephen Johns, Greg Pateryn, and Patrik Nemeth will dress tonight.
The Dallas Stars didn’t live up to expectations last year coming off a Western Conference Final appearance the year before. They certainly rectified that by adding some monster free agents over the summer with Alexander Radulov, Ben Bishop, Marc Methot and Martin Hanzal.
Over the summer I wrote an article previewing my ‘Way Too Early Predictions for the Central Division’ and can you guess who I picked to win looking at those names above?
That’s right. The Dallas Stars.
The lines for the Stars should look something like this:
Hamhuis, Johns, Pateryn, Nemeth, Honka, Heatherington
What To Look For
On paper we shouldn’t have a tough time dispensing of this Dallas Stars team. But that’s never stopped us before from playing lackadaisical hockey.
With Dutch, Yakupov, Landy and Compher in the lineup, I expect to see some goals and many scoring opportunities. The offense last year was abysmal at best and to quote the great Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Shoot the puck Avalanche (cough, Comeau, cough).
I’m also looking to see who steps up on defense. Siemens really blew an opportunity on Tuesday to mark his place in the opening night roster, can someone else take advantage and get a bump to fill out the final 3 spots. Looking at you Warsofsky, Mironov, Bigras.
We touched on it earlier, but also look to see how Varly performs. He’ll let in a few, sure, maybe even a couple soft ones but is he quick from side to side and does he show clear vision to the puck. One things for certain, he won’t allow anyone, not even a teammate, to hack away after the whistle. Defense, take note.
How to Listen
Unfortunately the game will not be televised tonight. However, you can listen to it through Altitude Radio at 950AM. Puck drop is 7pm.