It’s back. Colorado Avalanche hockey is finally back - and if there is going to be playoff hockey in Denver this spring, the team is going to have to start winning a lot more that we’ve seen over the last eight weeks.
The Avs re-star their schedule with a visit from the Vancouver Canucks. The two teams are tied in the standings with 52 points, so two points will be crucial for both sides. If nothing else this should be an exciting game, both these teams give up a lot of goals against. We saw that in their first meeting this season as the Avs left Vancouver with a 7-6 overtime loss back in November.
Despite some horrendous play for nearly two months now, the Avalanche still hang on to the second Wild Card position in the Western Conference.
After sitting out All-Star weekend due to a sore foot, Nathan MacKinnon will be in the lineup tonight - and he’ll have some new linemates. Coach Jared Bednar is moving Carl Soderberg between his All-Star wingers and the team will try Alexander Kerfoot and Colin Wilson with MacKinnon. This likely won’t last the entire game - or more than a period - but it’s an attempt to get the team’s offense going.
If nothing else, this move puts a spotlight on just how badly the Avs need another top-6 winger if they are going to take the next step in the Western Conference.
On the blue line, Erik Johnson will be back after missing the last two games with a concussion. He practiced with Ian Cole on his left side as Sam Girard was moved down to the third pair with Patrik Nemeth.
Alex Kerfoot - Nathan MacKinnon - Colin Wilson
Gabriel Landeskog - Carl Soderberg - Mikko Rantanen
Matt Nieto - J.T. Compher - Matt Calvert
Sven Andrighetto - Sheldon Dries - Gabriel Bourque
Ian Cole - Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie
Sam Girard - Patrik Nemeth
The Canucks went into the All-Star break having gained points in five of their past six games. For a team that is supposed to be in the middle of a rebuild, Vancouver is sitting a lot higher in the standings than many had expected.
With a -14 goal differential on the season the Canucks place in the standings has less to do with them being a good team and more a byproduct of a very bad Western Conference.
Elias Pettersson and Brock Boser signify the future in Vancouver, but it’s Bo Horvat that brings the young leadership that a team in transition needs.
Sven Baertschi - Elias Pettersson - Brock Boeser
Josh Leivo - Bo Horvat - Markus Granlund
Antoine Roussel - Brandon Sutter - Jake Virtanen
Loui Eriksson - Jay Beagle - Tyler Motte
Alex Edler - Chris Tanev
Ben Hutton - Troy Stecher
Derrick Pouliot - Erik Gudbranson
It looks like both goaltenders will come out of the bye week with their starting goaltenders in net. Semyon Varlamov and Jacob Markstrom come into the game with an identical .908 sv %.
For Varlamov, this next month is going to be crucial as the Avalanche try to decide whether they should ride out the season with the pending free agent or if they should look to move him at the trade deadline.