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Colorado Avalanche Game Day: Getting back on track in the Sunshine State

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The Avalanche visit the Florida Panthers for their first matchup of the season.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing result in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, the Avs continue their east coast swing tonight when they visit the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center.

The Panthers find themselves tied for last in the Atlantic division with 27 points alongside the Ottawa Senators. After finishing first in the division for the 2015-2016 season, the Panthers have yet to make it back to the post season despite having a reputable young roster.

Meanwhile, the Avalanche are just two points behind Nashville for first place in the west and get the feeling it might be a back and forth affair between the two clubs all season.

Colorado was able to sweep the Panthers last season by an aggregate score of 9-4. They’ll look to continue that trend tonight and get back into the win column.


Colorado Avalanche

Secondary scoring has been a hot topic of discussion all season but that concern fizzled a bit after Tuesday nights game as all three goals were scored by players not named Nathan, Mikko, or Gabriel.

Coach Bednar changed the lines against Pittsburgh flipping J.T. Compher and Alexander Kerfoot. Neither line was able to get on the score board so it will be curious to see if Bednar stays with those lines again or reverts back to Jost/Kerfoot/Wilson.

Sven Andrighetto could slide back into the lineup tonight after being a healthy scratch on Tuesday. Tonight’s matchup suits more of Ghetto’s quick and speedy play rather than trying to wear down an opponents line which plays more in Bourque’s favor.

Mark Barberio is still out with an upper-body injury with no timetable to return. Patrik Nemeth and Nikita Zadorov did not have their best game on Tuesday and with only Mark Alt as a possible replacement we are likely to see the same pair go tonight.

Forwards

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen

Tyson Jost - J.T. Compher - Colin Wilson

Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert

Vladislav Kamenev - Alexander Kerfoot - Gabriel Bourque

Defense

Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson

Ian Cole - Tyson Barrie

Nikita Zadorov - Patrik Nemeth


Florida Panthers

Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers in points with 7 goals and 24 assists and is also riding a 6 game multi-point streak. The top line for the Panthers is Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and newly acquired Mike Hoffman. They are by far the most dangerous line for the Panthers, everything after that should be readily contained.

Vincent Trocheck is out for an extended period of time after fracturing his ankle back on November 19th at Ottawa. He was a bright spot for this Panthers club last season and was voted to his first ever all-star game.

On the defensive side of things, Aaron Ekblad, former first overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft, continues to lead the back-end. He’s paired with long-time veteran Keith Yandle and the duo will likely be tasked with slowing down the top line for the Avalanche.

Much like the top line for the Panthers, beyond the top defensive pairing, there isn’t much to write about.

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Mike Hoffman

Evgenii Dadonov - Jared McCann - Frank Vatrano

Dryden Hunt - Juho Lammikko - Denis Malgin

Micheal Haley - Colton Sceviour - Troy Brouwer

Defense

Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad

Michael Matheson - Mark Pysyk

Bogdan Kiselevich - Mackenzie Weegar


Goaltenders

After letting in six goals to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night, it wouldn’t be surprising if Bednar gave Semyon Varlamov a rest and turn to future starter Philipp Grubauer.

Grubauer hasn’t played since November 28th when he skated away with a 6-3 victory at home against the aforementioned Penguins. He’s won his last three starts and his record now sits at 6-1-2 for the season. He also has a 3.06 GAA and a .904 save percentage.

Typically coaches like to go back to the goaltender coming off a victory and especially one who earned a shut out. Roberto Luongo did just that on Tuesday with a 33-save shutout vs the Boston Bruins.

Luongo recently returned after missing 5 games with a knee injury so it’s possible Bob Boughner eases Luongo back in action and we see James Reimer.

*Updated 12:31pm*

Philipp Grubauer will be in net for the Avalanche and Roberto Luongo for the Panthers.