Tonight the Avalanche will face off with a familiar western conference foe in snowy Winnipeg, looking to end the suffering once and for all. If you are an Avs fan these days, you have more than likely already gone through your list of superstitious practices and are left wondering whether or not to tune in at all. Just me? After listening to yet another demoralizing defeat in my car while sitting in the driveway, I’ve decided it’s time for us to embrace that frustration and channel it. Much like the Avalanche need to tonight against the Winnipeg Jets.
Hard to believe that on February 14th of last year the Avalanche were riding a ten game home winning streak. In the 2018-19 season, we are experiencing the antithesis of that. With a 9 game losing streak looming, I think it’s finally time to let go. It’s time to disregard the outcome and watch for the love of the game and all things burgundy and blue. If we can loosen up maybe the boys will too. #LetGoAvsGo
Avs are to be welcomed by a physical Jets team that is currently atop the Western Conference. The Jets have been struggling for consistency as they aim to fight off a Nashville Predators squad for that top spot and are 5-4-1 in their last 10.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at just how the Avalanche top line has performed as of late. Mikko Rantanen (once upon a time NHL’s leader in points) has only one point and is (-1) over the last five games. Nathan MacKinnon (-1 in last five) has sustained scoring but seems to be the focus of the opposition and Landeskog (also -1 in last five) can’t seem to control the puck along the boards and has been MIA in his usually prolific role as a net-front presence. Safe to say the top line has gone cold.
Colorado called Tyson Jost up on Tuesday hoping the young man out of St. Albert would provide a spark in Toronto. He may not have found the score sheet, but the roommate line didn’t play all that bad, besides that costly 4-minute high-sticking penalty on J.T. Compher (sigh).
If the Avalanche wants to reverse the curse, it’s time for a change involving more disciplined play. The Avs have been penalized far too frequently, and with a 27th ranked penalty kill (76.8%) we have paid the price being outscored 35-16 over the last eight games. Let’s turn the page on all that.
Mark Barberio has been skating as a full participant at practice and Dominic Toninato has been called up from the Eagles so we might see a change in the lineup tonight.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Alexander Kerfoot - Tyson Jost - J.T. Compher
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert
Sven Andrighetto - Sheldon Dries - A.J. Greer
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie
Ryan Graves - Patrik Nemeth
This year’s Jets squad features a substantial amount of scoring power and physicality. We should see this game get a little scrappy as usual and the Avalanche will have to withstand a red hot Mark Scheifele who now has a team-leading 30 goals on the year. He and his line-mates Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor combined for two goals in their previous contest against the New York Rangers and the Jets tallied another home win beating the Rangers by a score of 4-3.
Winnipeg is now 21-6-3 at home with just one less home win than the dominant Tampa Bay Lighting. Dominance at home could prove to be imperative if the Jets can secure home-ice advantage going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs which are a mere two months out. Expect the Jets to come out flying against a struggling Avalanche squad.
Kyle Connor - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler
Patrik Laine - Bryan Little - Jack Roslovic
Mathieu Perreault - Adam Lowry - Brandon Tanev
Brendan Lemieux - Andrew Copp - Mason Appleton
Josh Morrissey - Jacob Trouba
Ben Chiarot - Dustin Byfuglien
Joe Morrow - Tyler Myers
Jared Bednar did not indicate whether we’d be seeing Semyon Varlamov or Philipp Grubauer between the pipes tonight for the Avalanche. I for one hope we get to see Varly as he seems to be finding a groove in his last few starts which have featured some show-stopping saves and a more aggressive play-style. A pending UFA Semyon Varlamov should be motivated knowing that even if he doesn’t have a future in Denver, these next two months are vital in finding a job for ample compensation.
For the Jets, we are going to see Connor Hellebuyck in net. He sports a 26-15-2 record - more importantly, Hellebuyck is 16-8 at home this year. The Jets goaltender stopped 34-37 in his previous matchup at home against NY.