31 shots on net, one goal for. 21 shots against, four goals allowed. Looks fairly similar to the stat line for all too many Colorado Avalanche games over the past two months. Shooting percentage and goaltending have been slipping further and further below the league average, and it can be argued that one mid-December game against the New York Islanders was the starting point, the catalyst, for that slump.
The Islanders shut down the Avs top line and created perfect attacking opportunities, scoring well on a below average shot total. Since that game, the Avalanche have not looked anything like the team they were going into that night. Before that first meeting with the Islanders, the Avs had taken 42 points in 33 games, and despite starting December a little shaky with a 3-4 record, they had just beat Dallas with the top line recording a total of nine combined points. After the Islanders shut them down that night in December, the team has taken only 11 points from its last 20 games, and have now lost five straight. This will be their last chance at the Islanders this season after losing the first match up. Can it be a turning point?
The Avalanche are still looking to turn this season around in a very tight, and (outside of the top-six teams) very disappointing, Western Conference. Despite the Avs’ slump, they did not fall out of a playoff spot until the loss to Vancouver a week ago. A win against this Islanders team would be huge towards momentum.
This is the first game of an east coast back-to-back for the Avalanche, and the second game of their east coast road trip. Every game is important for the Avs right now, but a win against a very good Islanders team could make a big difference in how the rest of the season plays out.
This weekend could end up defining the rest of the season for the Avalanche. There is only a four-point difference between the eight playoff spot in the West and last place in the Central Division. Back-to-back losses, and they would almost certainly relegated to the bottom of the Central Division. A win against the Islanders tonight could go a long way in setting a tone for the rest of the season, especially upon returning from their road trip, where ten out of their next 13 games are against Western Conference opponents, including six against the Central and six against teams currently in playoff position in the West. Taking home two points against the Islanders would bring the Avs back even on points with both the Blues and Canucks, with the Blues currently holding the tiebreaker over both teams.
The Avalanche were lucky to walk away with one point in Washington and won’t shake up their lines much from that overtime loss. Ian Cole’s status is subject to change as he may be suspended for a hit on Kusnetzov in the third period of their game against the Capitals. A.J. Greer will stay with the team for at least the rest of the road trip.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Alexander Kerfoot - J.T. Compher - Colin Wilson
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert
A.J. Greer - Sheldon Dries - Sven Andrighetto
Ian Cole - Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth - Samuel Girard
New York Islanders
The Islanders currently sit first in the Metropolitan division, with Barry Trotz developing this team into the real deal. Mathew Barzal has grown into one of the best and brightest young players in the game and he’s surrounded by a team playing very smart hockey. After winning six straight, they have however dropped 2 of their last 4 and went to a shootout against a very mediocre (meaning they didn’t have Taylor Hall) New Jersey Devils team in their last game. The Islanders are returning home after two games on the road and face a Central Division back to back, starting with the Avalanche on Saturday, and playing the Wild on Sunday.
The Islanders will be sticking with a similar lineup to their last few games as well, giving Michael Dal Colle his second straight game playing with Barzal on the second line since his call up four games ago.
Anders Lee - Brock Nelson - Jordan Eberle
Michael Dal Colle - Mathew Barzal - Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier - Valtteri Filppula - Leo Komarov
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Adam Pelech - Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews - Scott Mayfield
Neither goalie has been confirmed, but Semyon Varlamov will most likely get the start for the Avalanche, with Robin Lehner in net for the Islanders.
Puck drop’s at 11:00am MT and will be broadcast on Altitude Sports locally.