The Avalanche were slipping down the standings after losing the first three games of a five-game road trip, getting stopped in the first three Canadian provinces (Manitoba, Alberta, and Quebec).
The team was able to turn things around after an early two-goal deficit in Toronto Monday night, coming up with a 6-3 victory courtesy of Carl Soderberg’s first career hat trick. Now, Colorado travels up Highway 7 to face an Ottawa Senators team who are coming off a 4-1 home loss against San Jose.
Ottawa has home ice advantage coming into the game, with a season home record of 11-9-4 as well as three days off to rest. However, the Avalanche are hoping to use the momentum from Monday’s win to earn another road victory tonight, looking to improve their current away record of 12-11-3.
This will be the final regular season matchup between these two sides, and the first in Ottawa since March 2, 2017 due to last year’s Global Series games in Sweden.
The Avalanche haven’t found success in Ottawa in recent years, with the Senators on a three-game winning streak against the Avs when playing at Canadian Tire Center. If the Avalanche can break that streak and win tonight, though, they will take all four points this year after beating the Senators at home 6-3 back in late October.
Victory tonight will hopefully create some distance in a tight Central Division, as they are tied with the Dallas Stars (50 points from 47 games) and the Minnesota Wild are close behind at 49 points with a game in hand.
Where to Watch
Opponent: Ottawa Senators (17-24-5)
Where: Canadian Tire Center - Ottawa, Ontario
Puck drop: 5:00 PM MT
Watch: Altitude, SportsNet, TVA Sports
Listen: Altitude Radio 92.5 FM, TSN 1200 (English) 94.5 Unique-FM (French)
Opponent’s Beat: Silver Seven
With the three-game slump broken, it is important the Avalanche carry last game’s momentum over with a fast and positive start. Getting an early lead is the key for success, as the Avalanche are 14-3-2 when scoring first.
Offensively, the All-Star top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen will continue to play a crucial role, as the trio has contributed to 94 of the team’s 157 goals for a whopping 60% contribution rate. In their previous meeting with Ottawa, the top line was a huge part of Colorado’s 6-3 win, as all three players scored a goal and provided multiple assists on the others for a combined total of 10 points.
Scoring success will also need to come from the power-play units, which are ranked 3rd in the NHL on the road against a Senators home penalty kill sitting near the bottom of the league at 30th. Indeed, the Avalanche were highly effective against the Senators penalty kill unit last meeting, converting on two of three opportunities.
Defensively, the return of Nikita Zadorov and Mark Barberio add some much-needed physicality to the team in a game which is sure to be scrappy, especially if their October meeting is anything to go by. Now that the Avalanche have more defenders to choose from, both Patrik Nemeth (still recovering from illness) and Ryan Graves will get the scratches for tonight alongside the winger Gabriel Bourque.
Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantenen
Colin Wilson – Carl Soderberg – J.T. Compher
Matt Nieto – Alexander Kerfoot – Matt Calvert
Tyson Jost – Sheldon Dries – Sven Andrighetto
Samuel Girard – Erik Johnson
Ian Cole – Tyson Barrie
Nikita Zadorov – Mark Barberio
An Ottawa Senators roster stilled riddled with injuries sees the return of D-man Thomas Chabot, who had missed eight games due to injury. This game will also mark the return of Matt Duchene, who scored two goals in the previous meeting at Pepsi Center. The 28-year-old will be playing against his former team on his birthday today.
Players to watch for in tonight’s game aside from Duchene include Mark Stone, who has 13 goals and 20 assists on home ice and leads the team in both goals and assists. The Right-winger Bobby Ryan is also playing well recently, with three goals and five assists in the previous seven games.
Brady Tkachuk -- Chris Tierney -- Mark Stone
Ryan Dzingel -- Matt Duchene -- Bobby Ryan
Rudolfs Balcers -- Nick Paul -- Mikkel Boedker
Zack Smith -- Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Thomas Chabot -- Dylan DeMelo
Maxime Lajoie -- Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki -- Christian Jaros
Rather than concealing the starter for tonight’s game as he has recently, Coach Jared Bednar mentioned during morning practice he will be keeping the same lineup from Monday’s game, which likely means that Semyon Varlamov will get his third consecutive start in the conclusion of the road trip. Let’s hope he has another solid 1st period and remains consistent the entire game, after letting in three goals in the 2nd and 3rd periods against Toronto for a .850 save percentage last time out.
For Ottawa, the recently-acquired Anders Nilsson will get his fourth consecutive start, since regular-starter Craig Anderson’s concussion put him out of action on December 21st against the New Jersey Devils. Since joining the Senators from the New York Islanders, the big 6’6” Swede Nilsson has a 2-3-0 record and a .920 save percentage.