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Colorado Avalanche Game Day: Waking up in Toronto

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The Avalanche look for their first win on the Canadian trip as they faceoff with the Maple Leafs in Toronto

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

After falling back into another losing streak the Colorado Avalanche need to figure out a way to grab two points tonight as the visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Despite losing nine of their past 10 games, the Avalanche still hold one of the two Wild Card playoff spots in the Western Conference. That won’t last long if the team can’t string together a few wins as Vancouver, Anaheim and Minnesota all sit a single point behind the Avs in the standings.

Colorado’s recent futility has been masked by the performance of the Anaheim Ducks who are hogging the headlines. Despite the 11 game losing streak, Anaheim has the same number of points (4) as the Avalanche since December 19th.

With the Ottawa Senators ahead of them on Wednesday, the Avalanche have two more attempts to grab a win on this five game Canadian road trip.

The Avalanche went 2-0 against the Maple Leafs last season including a 4-2 victory during their lone trip to Toronto. In fact the Avalanche haven't lost in Toronto since November 71, 2015. That’s got to count for something right?


Colorado Avalanche

There isn’t one thing that can be blamed for the slump the Avalanche are going through. Every time the team scores four or five goals, the goalie will gave a horrendous game. Then on the flip side when the Avs get a solid performance from Semyon Varlamov - as they did Saturday night in Montreal - the team’s offense will go dry. Right now it seems like nothing can go right for an Avalanche team that just needs to catch a break to gain some confidence.

With only 38 goals in the first period this season, it’s imperative that the Avs get out to a good start. They can’t afford to go down early since Toronto has the fire power to exploit a team that is forced to take more risks to get back in the game.

Nikita Zadorov has been a full participant in practice and is expected to make his return to the lineup tonight. Big Z has been out with an injury since December 19th.

As well as Zadorov, Patrik Nemeth - who missed Saturday’s game due to the flu - is expected to be available tonight so the coaching staff has eight defenders to choose from, though we shouldn’t be surprised if Ryan Graves is sent back to the Eagles before game time tonight.

Forwards

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen

Colin Wilson - Alexander Kerfoot - J.T. Compher

Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert

Tyson Jost - Sheldon Dries - Sven Andrighetto

Defense

Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson

Ian Cole - Tyson Barrie

Nikita Zadorov - Mark Barberio


Toronto Maple Leafs

After a record-setting start to the season, the offensive production in Toronto has come back to earth recently. Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau and Auston Matthews have combined for only one goal over their last nine games while William Nylander has only a single goal since signing his new contract on December 1st.

While a number of the big guns have been quiet, this is a team with incredibly depth up front, icing three lines that can fill the net at any time.

Morgan Rielly is having a Norris caliber season. His 13 goals 46 points as a defender are more than every Avalanche forward save for the big-3. Despite Rielly’s brilliance, it’s the depth on the blueline that causes problems for the Maple Leafs. The bottom-4 can be exposed pretty regularly on any given night.

After making the big move over the summer, John Tavares is only one goal away from the fifth 30 goal season of his career. He currently sits third in the Rocket Richard race only three behind Alex Ovechkin.

Forwards

Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Mitch Marner

Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - Kasperi Kapanen

Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander

Par Lindholm - Frederik Gauthier - Connor Brown

Defense

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey

Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev

Travis Dermott - Igor Ozhiganov


Starting Goalies

Frederik Andersen will be returning to the crease for Toronto tonight. It will be his first start since December 22nd as he has been on the shelf with a lower body injury. Andersen has been practicing every day for two weeks now -something you don’t often see from a goalie with an injury like he has - so there is a belief that the Leafs have been resting their star netminder in order to ensure he doesn’t wear out at playoff time.

Andersen has been one of the best goalies in the NHL this season as he comes in with a .923 sv% and a top-5 GSAA.

As per Jared Bednar’s new policy, we do not have confirmation as to which goalie is going to start for the Avalanche tonight. Semyon Varlamov looked good Saturday stopping 28 of the 30 shots he faced. He was also the first goalie off the ice this morning so it looks like he’ll get his second straight start. After leading the league for the first month of the season, Varlamov has been pretty bad through December dropping his sv% to .909 on the season.