After dropping a heartbreaker in Edmonton Thursday night, the Colorado Avalanche look to finish up their Western Canadian road trip with a win against the Calgary Flames. A win in regulation will pull the Avs into a tie with the Flames and put them both a point back of the second Wildcard spot.
Though the teams are bunched together in the standings, they are going through very different seasons. The Avalanche are vastly exceeding the expectations of most. They were projected to finish near the bottom of the standings, so being in a playoff race is a bonus for the young team.
On the flip side, the Flames came into the season as one of the favorites in the Pacific Division and their fans saw them as a legitimate contender in the Western Conference. They have not met expectations and missing out on the playoffs would be a huge disappointment in Calgary.
The Avalanche come into this game having lost three of their last four games. They are finding out that life is a lot harder without Erik Johnson in the lineup. Duncan Siemens looked really good with more minutes Thursday night, so don’t be surprised if we see his role expand little.
With three of the Avs top-6 defensemen on the shelf with injuries, coach Bednar made the bold decision of benching Nikita Zadorov against the Oilers. It isn’t the first time Zadorov has been singled out this season. We will see how he responds today.
Tyson Jost is still on the 4th line, but if he keeps playing the way he has recently, the rookie is going to force Bednar to move him up in the lineup. An all-rookie second line of Alex Kerfoot, Jost and J.T. Compher is something we should be getting more of.
Being the last game before the trade deadline on Monday, we might be seeing Blake Comeau’s final game in a Colorado Avalanche jersey. The veteran forward has been a great leader for this team, but it’s probably time to move on and open up a roster spot for a youngster like A.J. Greer.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Colin Wilson - Alexander Kerfoot - J.T. Compher
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau
Gabriel Bourque - Tyson Jost - Nail Yakupov
Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie
Samuel Girard - Patrik Nemeth
Duncan Siemens - David Warsofsky
The Flames come into this game having lost three of their last four games and losing ground in the Western Conference playoff race.
With the kind of talent the Flames have, there is really no excuse for them to be fighting with the Avalanche in the standings. This team has four defensemen that would easily play on the top pair in Colorado.
With a top line as potent as Colorado’s and one of the most underrated forwards in the NHL playing center on the second line, this is a team that has the firepower to take advantage of the Avs’ battered defense.
Nothing has been confirmed, but last week coach Bednar told us that “this is Varly’s net”, so with Jonathan Bernier back home recovering from a concussion, it’s going to be the veteran between the pipes again tonight. Semyon Varlamov has been really good since returning from injury and while it’s not ideal to ride him every night, the team has no desire to take a gamble on Andrew Hammond.
Varlamov is 15-12-3 on the season with a .913 sv%.
Across the ice, we are likely to see David Rittich who has taken over as the starter after Mike Smith went down with an injury of his own. Rittich is 6-4-3 on the season with an underwhelming .902 sv%.