The Colorado Avalanche return home after an eastern road trip that was salvaged by a 5-4 victory in Buffalo on Friday night. The Avs will look to split the season series with the Canadiens after they dropped a 4-2 decision in Montreal a few weeks ago.
In a weird scheduling wrinkle, this will be Colorado’s first of eight straight games against Canadian teams.
Nathan MacKinnon is skating with the team, but he has still not been cleared to take contact, so it will be at least another few days before we see him back in the Avalanche lineup.
The Habs come into this game having lost two straight and looking like they’re set to sell off a number of assets leading up to the deadline.
The Avalanche finally broke out the offense on Sunday in Buffalo. With the five-goal outburst, the Avs matched their total from the past four games combined. With Mackinnon out of the lineup, the forward group has been put in the blender in an attempt to find chemistry.
The line of J.T. Compher, Tyson Jost and Mikko Rantanen was great on Sunday and you’d think coach Bednar would give strong consideration to keeping them together once MacKinnon returns in order to create two threatening lines.
Rocco Grimaldi was called up from San Antonio late last night, so he hasn’t practiced with the team, but there is a good chance that he slots into the lineup to replace A.J. Greer tonight. We will know more after the morning skate.
On the injury front, Nathan MacKinnon is skating in a non-contact jersey while Blake Comeau, Sven Andrighetto, and Mark Barberio are still no on the ice.
J.T. Compher - Tyson Jost - Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog - Alexander Kerfoot - Colin Wilson
Gabriel Bourque - Carl Soderberg - Matt Nieto
Nail Yakupov - Dominic Toninato - A.J. Greer/Grimaldi
Nikita Zadorov - Erik Johnson
Anton Lindholm - Tyson Barrie
Samuel Girard - Patrik Nemeth
When these teams last met, Jonathan Drouin was the best player on the ice. Despite his three-point night against the Avs, Drouin has had a pretty disappointing season in Montreal. With 28 points through 50 games, Drouin has not provided the offensive punch the Habs were hoping for when they traded stud rookie Mikhail Sergachev for him this past summer.
With 33 points this season, Max Pacioretty leads the team in scoring. His name has been prevalent in the rumor mill lately as it looks like the Canadiens are set to move on from a number of their veteran players.
This is a team that is playing with one eye on their cell phone as the trade deadline approaches. While it’s been a bad season in Montreal, you don’t want to take for granted any game in which you’re facing Carey Price.
The Habs continue to be without their best defenseman as Shea Weber is still down with a foot injury.
Max Pacioretty - Paul Byron - Artturi Lehkonen
Charles Hudon - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk - Jonathan Drouin - Nikita Scherbak
Nicolas Deslauriers - Byron Froese - Logan Shaw
Karl Alzner - Jeff Petry
Jow Morrow - Jordie Benn
Victor Mete - David Schlemko
Update: It's Niemi in net instead of Price
Semyonon Varlamov is going to be back in net looking to bounce back from a loss in Carolina last week. He is 13-11-2 with a 0.910 sv%.
It has not been confirmed yet, but expect Carey Price to get the start for the Canadiens tonight. Price is having an off season with a save percentage of .907 - well below league average. That said, he’s still the most talanted goalie in the world, so he can steal a game at any time.
Dinner with the Enemy
It looks like Nail Yakupov and Andrei Mironov were showing Alex Galchenyuk and Nikita Scherbak a little Denver hospitality last night.