It looks like the Colorado Avalanche are fully past the mid-season lull that saw them play like one of the worst teams in the NHL. With points in five straight games, the team has pulled themselves back into the playoff picture.
A win tonight would pull the Avalanche back into a playoff spot and give them some breathing room between themselves and the Canucks. A loss and Vancouver would be only two points back as both teams push for one of the Western Conference Wild Card spots.
Hours after being traded to the Avalanche, Derick Brassard scored his first goal in burgundy and blue. The veteran forward looked good playing with Tyson Jost and Matt Calvert and will bring a boost to the lineup over the final 19 games of the season.
The addition of Brassard has allowed Coach Bednar to re-unite Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen on the top line while maintaining a little depth in the lineup.
Ian Cole has been skating with the team - with a full face shield - but is sounds as though he’s still got some time before he’s ready for game action. Luckily, Ryan Graves has looked great since coming up from the AHL and with the team not sending him down before the AHL playoff deadline on Monday, it sees as though he’ll be up with the Avs for the remainder of the season.
Alex Kerfoot - Nathan - MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog - Tyson Jost - Matt Calvert
Derick Brassard - Carl Soderberg - JT Compher
Sven Andrighetto - Sheldon Dries - Colin Wilson
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ryan Graves - Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth - Nikita Zadorov
The Canucks are flying high on the back of a 4-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday, but they’re headed into a tough stretch of their schedule. They would need to gain significant ground in the next few games to play themselves back into the Wild Card race, and they face two of the teams in front of them - Colorado tonight and Arizona tomorrow - before they’d have a chance to be back in the thick of things.
Bo Horvat put up two goals on Monday, bringing his total for the year to 23 goals and 48 points. That top line, with Nikolay Goldobin on the wing, was good for three goals and four points — and with Elias Pettersson on the second line to distribute their scoring, things could be in worse shape in Vancouver.
Add in that there’s been addition by subtraction with the departure of Erik Gudbrandson and the Canucks aren’t quite the punching bag they’ve been lately. But if the Avalanche want to prove they’re a true playoff team, this is a club they’ll have to defeat.
Nikolay Goldobin — Bo Horvat — Josh Leivo
Ryan Spooner — Elias Pettersson — Brock Boeser
Antoine Roussel — Adam Gaudette — Markus Granlund
Loui Eriksson — Jay Beagle — Tyler Motte
Ben Hutton — Troy Stecher
Ashton Sautner — Erik Gudbranson
Derrick Pouliot — Alex Biega
The Avalanche have confirmed, unsurprisingly, that the NHL’s First Star of last week will get the nod in a must-win game. Semyon Varlamov, who has spurred the team’s recent turn-around with some stellar play, will start as the Avalanche look to face off against a team that’s chasing them down in the race for the coveted Wild Card spots.
For the Canucks, the expectation is that Jacob Markstrom will get the nod, especially with Thatcher Demko just barely back from injury. It’s a tough break for Vancouver, who have hoped for Demko’s presence for a few seasons now - but for Colorado, it could be an opportunity to capitalize on. While Markstrom shut out the Anaheim Ducks in their last game, Vancouver has struggled recently against teams that aren’t, well, Anaheim.