The Colorado Avalanche only get to face each of the Pacific Division teams a few times each year — and for the Avalanche, that’s a distinct disadvantage in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
They’ll get their first matchup of the year against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night, though, working their way across the southwest coast with a three-game trip through Anaheim, LA, and Arizona.
Anaheim proved to be tougher than Colorado anticipated, with the floundering Randy Carlyle-led team nearly stealing a two-point game in the end.
Now, they’ll get to see if LA can prove as surprisingly resilient as their fellow southern California neighbors — or if, as the standings may indicate, they’ll be easy pickings.
Colorado has started to struggle after their high-flying season last year, with their lack of depth scoring showing itself early on.
The good news is that against an offensively-stagnant Kings, the Avalanche have a top line that could decimate their opponents tonight. Mikko Rantanen’s 32 points are more than double that of the highest-scoring King so far, and they have five players with as many or more points than that top-scoring LA forward. But after struggling to get a decisive victory over the Anaheim Ducks, it’s hard to tell what could happen here on the road.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Tyson Jost - Alexander Kerfoot - Colin Wilson
Sheldon Dries - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert
Sven Andrighetto - Vladislav Kamenev - Gabriel Bourque
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Tyson Barrie
Nikita Zadorov - Patrik Nemeth
STARTING GOALIE: Semyon Varlamov has been confirmed to get the nod for the Avalanche, which bodes well for the team performance-wise. The only problem, of course, is that the Avalanche haven’t been finding ways to win in front of their long-time number one; although he boasts a .926 save percentage and is giving the team high-quality performances in nearly 70% of his starts, they’ve gone just 6-5-2 under his watch. The Kings have struggled to produce, but the Avalanche will need to prove that’s no issue for them here.
The Kings have been in free-fall this year for a number of reasons.
They’ve been without long-time starter Jonathan Quick for the majority of the season’s first quarter here, sitting out for two separate injuries so far. And when he was healthy, his play was far from stellar.
Now, they’re also without backup Jack Campbell, who had been keeping the team afloat in Quick’s absence. Add in a team that looked so uninterested to start that they axed their coach less than 20 games in, and things haven’t been all that impressive for the two-time Stanley Cup champs.
They’ve made a swap in their lineup, dealing the younger Tanner Pearson to the Pittsburgh Penguins for the more seasoned (and faster) Carl Hagelin. The real question, though, will still come in net; they won their last game, but only because prospect Cal Petersen recorded his first career shutout. They only managed to get one goal past the previously-hapless Jake Allen, which doesn’t bode well for the Pacific Division club.
None of their players have been consistent this year, so there isn’t much to watch for. Ilya Kovalchuk is their leading scorer, but boasts just 14 points — and may start to get restless for the team if they keep losing.
Alex Iafallo - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Ilya Kovalchuk - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli
Carl Hagelin - Adrian Kempe - Matt Luff
Kyle Cliford - Nate Thompson - Austin Wagner
Derek Forbort - Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin - Alec Martinez
Dion Phaneuf - Oscar Fantenberg
STARTING GOALIE: Expect Petersen to get another start after his shutout.