The New Jersey Devils are the last undefeated team in the NHL - now it’s up to the Avalanche to change that. The Avs roll into the Prudential Center looking to bounce back from a disappointing shootout loss on Tuesday. It was the team's second poor performance in a row, so they’re going to want a to have a bounce back tonight.
Luckily reinforcements are on their way in the form of a returning Sven Andrighetto.
The Avalanche will still be without Marko Dano tonight, after claiming the forward off of the waiver wire from the Winnipeg Jets.
While that would normally be small news, the team lost JT Compher to a head injury earlier this week — which leaves them short-staffed up front, particularly given that Sven Andrighetto is being eased back into things with a spot on the fourth line after his own injury. The Avalanche have one of the best lines in hockey in their top trio, but remain somewhat scoring-starved from a depth perspective — and given that Dano boasts the kind of two-way numbers that could draw younger Carl Soderberg comparisons, it would be nice to have him right now.
On the blue line, Tyson Barrie is already getting things rolling, boasting four assists in his last three games to make him the only consistent producer outside of the top line. While that’s good for him, it’s equally bad for everyone else — especially guys like Tyson Jost and Samuel Girard, whom we’d like to see a hot start from. So far, Jost has just one goal and one assist in six games; for all the hopes that he’d be stepping it up this year, that’s not going to cut it.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Tyson Jost - Alexander Kerfoot - Colin Wilson
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert
Sven Andrighetto - Vladislav Kamenev - Gabriel Bourque
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth - Nikita Zadorov
So far this season, the New Jersey Devils are boasting just one goal against per game — and for anyone who grew up with early 2000’s Eastern Conference hockey, that should trigger some haunting memories of the Newark team stonewalling everyone they face.
That’s been largely in part due to the impressive play of backup Keith Kinkaid, but their 17 goals in just four games so far has certainly helped.
They’re the last undefeated team in the NHL coming into tonight’s tilt. While that has a bit to do with their trip overseas (and subsequent smaller game sample size), it also has to do with how impressive they’ve been out of the gate. Taylor Hall has four assists in his last three games — oh, and Kyle Palmieri? He’s been one of the hottest players in the league, boasting seven goals in four games and counting. He’s on that Auston Matthews ish right now, and while it doesn’t seem particularly sustainable for him personally it’s still a pretty daunting figure to face. He’ll cool off eventually, but there’s a good chance it won’t happen tonight.
Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Marcus Johansson - Pavel Zacha - Drew Stafford
Miles Wood - Travis Zajac - Blake Coleman
Brian Boyle - Jean-Sebastian Dea - Stefan Noesen
Mirco Mueller - Sami Vatanen
Andy Greene - Damon Severson
Will Butcher - Ben Lovejoy
For the Avalanche, newly acquired backup/tandem partner Philipp Grubauer will get another shot to bring his stats back up after allowing four goals in his first and only start of the year so far.
Grubauer was considered one of the most impressive backups in the NHL last season, boasting a .923 save percentage in all situations and serving as the predominant reason the Washington Capitals did as well as they did down the back stretch of the season. When a far-too-fatigued Braden Holtby’s game started to slip, Grubauer filled his spot seamlessly.
Unlike his counterpart on the other end of the ice tonight, though, he hasn’t come out of the gate hot this year. Kinkaid, like Grubauer, largely dragged his team through the final stretch of the 2017-18 season, in his case due to Cory Schneider struggles and injuries. But while Grubauer has just one start and a .882 save percentage in all situations so far this year, Kinkaid has gone 4-0-0 with two shutouts and a .962 save percentage while holding down the fort in New Jersey. Part of that had to do with having played against the Edmonton Oilers (who are hard to lose to) and the shot-starved Dallas Stars, but it’s also been largely due to his own impressive performances. Grubauer will need to step up in the battle of the backups to eke out a win tonight.