For the second time in nine days, the Colorado Avalanche will play host to the last place Chicago Blackhawks.
Last Friday night, the Blackhawks escaped the Pepsi Center with a 2-1 victory despite being badly out played by the Avalanche. It was rookie netminder Collin Delia that finished with stole the game from the Avs after turning away 35 of the 36 shots he faced.
It’s been a rough December for the Avs, but with games remaining against two of the worst teams in the conference, there is a chance to salvage the month.
Colorado has only two wins in their past nine games so the Avalanche can’t afford to drop another one at home tonight. A once comfortable lead in the standings has all but vanished as the Dallas Stars now sit only three points behind the Avs for third in the Central Division.
Things got interesting at practice yesterday as Coach Bednar separated the big-3, moving Matt Nieto onto the left wing with Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon. Bednar is trying something new in order to spark an offense that has gone dry recently. The once potent offense has only score nine goals over their last five games - and four of those came in the loss to Arizona last week.
If these new lines don’t accentuate the Avs’ need for another top-6 winger, I don’t know what does.
Matt Nieto - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog - Alexander Kerfoot - J.T. Compher
Sheldon Dries - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert
Sven Andrighetto - Tyson Jost - Gabriel Bourque
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth - Ryan Graves
The Blackhawks have been playing a lot better lately going 4-1-0 in their past five games. The big difference between now and earlier in the season is that the Blackhawks have found a way to limit goals against despite losing their franchise goaltender to a head injury. Chicago has only given up six goals in the four wins since Corey Crawford went down.
They’re still getting outshot on a regular basis so it stands to reason that this run isn’t going to continue.
Since coming over from the Arizona Coyotes, Dylan Strome is doing a good job of shedding the “bust” label. He has 6 goals and 11 points in 16 games with the Blackhawks.
After three straight starts for Philipp Grubauer, the Avalanche are going to turn back to Semyon Varlamov tonight. It’s been nearly two weeks since Varly has seen game action. He is 1-3 in his previous four starts and has been pulled twice. Let’s hope the time off has helped him settle his game.
We don’t have any confirmation yet, but given the way Collin Delia played last week against the Avs, there’s a strong possibility that the Blackhawks go with the rookie again tonight. Since being recalled from the AHL, Dellia is 2-0 and has stopped 81 of the 84 shots he’s faced.