After a brief stop at home, the Colorado Avalanche are back on the road as they will play four of their next five games in Western Canada. Coming off a loss in Minnesota, the Avs will be looking to get back in the win column in an attempt to stay at the top of the Western Conference standings.
The Avalanche have had four days off, so the team should be well rested as the visit a Flames team that has collected five of a possibly six points over their past three games.
The two teams met a couple weeks ago in what was one of Colorado’s worst outings this season. The Avalanche stole a point that night, but will be looking to get two tonight in Calgary.
At first glance, it looked like the four day break had come at a perfect time for the Avalanche. A few days to rest an recuperate for a team that is struggling through a few injuries. Unfortunately things got worse this week, not better. Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher will not travel with the team as both have been struggling to recover from head injuries. Neither has been cleared for contact and we have no timetable for their return.
To compound things, Sven Andrighetto has been put back on the IR as it’s clear he was never fully healed from the injury that forced him to sit our the first six games of the season.
To fill the void, the team has recalled A.J. Greer and Sheldon Dries from the AHL. Greer currently leads the Eagles in scoring and will look to provide energy and some grit to the bottom-6.
The injuries have forced the coaches to move Vladislav Kamenev up the lineup and that’s probably a good thing. He’s been a little disappointing so far this season, but Kamenev has the talent to produce at the NHL level. Letting him ride shotgun with Alex Kerfoot could be just what the young Russian needs to get going.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Alexander Kerfoot - Vladislav Kamenev - Colin Wilson
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert
A.J. Greer - Sheldon Dries - Gabriel Bourque/Marko Dano
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth - Nikita Zadorov
When the Flames traded away Dougie Hamilton this offseason, most thought the key to the return was Noah Hanifin. So far this season, Elias Lindholm has been the one that has been more impressive. With a team-leading eight goals, Lindholm has blossomed into a legitimate top-6 scoring threat and he looks like the perfect compliment to Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
On the blueline, it’s still Mark Giordano that leads the way, but the Flames are starting to transition to a more youthful group. The team is going with an all-rookie third pair of Juuso Valimaki and Rasmus Andersson - two incredibly talented two-way defenders.
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Sam Bennett - Mark Jankowski - James Neal
Garnet Hathaway - Derek Ryan - Dillon Dube
Mark Giordano - T.J. Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Juuso Valimaki - Rasmus Andersson
With the Avalanche going back to back, we are going to see the netminders split the next two games. Semyon Varlamov will get the start tonight in Calgary. He comes into this game as one of the best in the NHL sporting a 4-2-2 record and a .950 sv%.
At the other end of the spectrum we have Mike Smith. He has simply not been good this season. His atrocious .878 sv% has the team slowly making the transition to David Rittich - something they should be doing a lot quicker.