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Colorado Avalanche Game Day: Les Wild Card Contenders

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NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche have been in a brief free-fall lately, sliding down from the top of the west to the hotly-fought Wild Card race with a string of recent losses.

They’ll look to bounce back from their latest loss, an unacceptable goaltending-driven 5-3 loss against the Calgary Flames, when the puck drops on the road in Eastern Canada early this evening. It will be the Avalanche vs. the Montreal Canadiens, who are in the midst of their own Wild Card race at the moment as well.

The good news for Colorado is that they’ve been a clear playoff team this year while Montreal has not; they’re still sitting within the postseason standings in comparison to the outside-looking-in Atlantic Division club they’ll face off against.

The bad news, though, is that Montreal has been on the rise while Colorado has been slumping; they need to bounce back from a recent 4-1 loss in their own last game, but the 6-4-0 record Montreal has put up in their last 10 is far more promising than Colorado’s 2-6-2 in the same frame.

COLORADO

photo via DailyFaceoff

The Avalanche have continued to get elite numbers from their top line, but everyone else is sorely needing a step-up game to really prove themselves... still. It’s been fun watching Ryan Graves come into his own, but there’s still plenty that needs improvement there — and the team has been doing all the right things but still not getting the goaltending, which might be the biggest problem of all.

On the plus side, though, half the arena will be there to see Samuel Girard — so maybe he’ll have a winning game out of motivation.

MONTREAL

For more on the Canadiens side of things, check out the game-day report from Habs Eye On the Prize.

The biggest player to keep an eye on will be Max Domi, who will look for a bounce-back game after starting to slump a bit in recent games. He was on some sort of 100-plus point pace to start the year, but he’s stalled recently, putting up just four assists and no goals in the eight games since the holidays. He’s never been particularly prolific against the Avalanche, but fans need to look no further than Collin Delia to see how quickly a player’s fortunes can change against a team.

STARTING GOALIES

After it was announced that Jared Bednar didn’t plan to confirm starters until game time anymore, one dubious Colorado media voice apparently confirmed that Semyon Varlamov will be getting the nod against Montreal. Even if it’s just an educated guess being passed off as reporting, though, it’s the option that definitely makes more sense; even with some recent poor showings, Varlamov is still the goaltender who’s been having the more statistically-favorable year.

On the other end of the ice, the trustworthy Renaud Lavoie confirmed that Carey Price - who recently pulled out of the All Star Game to leave Montreal with no representative - will get the nod for the Canadiens. He’s been having a decent-but-not-amazing year, but remains one of the few reasons that club hasn’t completely plummeted - so once again, not a hugely surprising choice.