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Colorado Avalanche Game Day: Stars pay a visit on Division Rival Night

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Avalanche look to reclaim second in the west with a win over Dallas

NHL: Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche will have a chance at reclaiming the second spot in the west tonight as they face the surging Dallas Stars for the final time of the regular season.

While Dallas has earned a 7-3 record in its last 10 games, the Avalanche, on the other hand, enter the night having won only three games in their previous 10.

COLORADO AVALANCHE

If Colorado can win tonight’s game, it would leapfrog Dallas and claim second in the Central Division with 56 points on the season. That’s right. Despite a challenging string of losses, the Avs are still among the league’s top teams in the standings. December and January seem to be tough months for the Avalanche. Last year the Avs won just seven of 24 games in the months of December and January. This year, so far, they’ve won just nine of 19.

While Colorado has lacked some production from some of its members as of late, a resurgence by Samuel Girard, who has nine points in his last five games, including a four-point night against the St. Louis Blues back on Jan. 2, has been a welcomed sight. Meanwhile, Nathan MacKinnon has continued his usual dominating performances night-in and night-out. MacKinnon is currently averaging 1.47 points per game, while he remains on pace for a career-high in both goals and assists.

FORWARDS

Lines based on practice yesterday:

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen

Valeri Nichushkin - Nazem Kadri - Andre Burakovsky

Tyson Jost - J.T. Compher - Vladislav Kamenev

Matt Nieto - Pierre Edouard Bellemare - Matt Calvert

DEFENDERS

Ryan Graves - Cale Makar

Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson

Nikita Zadorov - Ian Cole

DALLAS STARS

Everything seems to be working out in Dallas these days. After a slow start and a sudden firing of their head coach, the Stars are aligning as one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now. Dallas’ loss to San Jose last Saturday marked the end of a six-game winning streak, which included a primetime comeback win over the Nashville Predators at the Winter Classic in Dallas.

The early and unforeseen departure of coach Jim Montgomery seems to have galvanized the locker room. Dallas is 9-5 since the coaching change. It helps that the Stars have very productive, and young blueliners in Miro Heiskanen and Esa Lindell. At just 20- and 25years of age, respectively, the pair have accounted for 42 points on the year.

FORWARDS

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Joel Kiviranta

Denis Gurianov - Roope Hintz - Joe Pavelski

Mattias Janmark - Jason Dickinson - Alexander Radulov

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

DEFENDERS

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen

Roman Polak - Andrej Sekera

GOALTENDERS

The Avalanche will go with goaltender Philipp Grubauer in tonight’s substantial divisional game. It would be an excellent time for Gru to send a message to his team and the rest of the league. When the Avalanche have strong goaltending, they play with transitional supremacy and often overwhelm their opponents.

Dallas will start big Ben Bishop tonight. Bishop is 15-9-3 with a .928 save percentage. His goals allowed average is 2.24, which ranks second among goalies (minimum of 25 starts). Bishop is big and talented and is expected to again contend for the Vezina Trophy. However, his GAA could be a testament to the Stars’ stout defense in front of him. Dallas ranks top-five in a number of defensive stats, including being the top team in average goals allowed per game (2.33), fewest total goals allowed all season (105) and the third-ranked penalty-killing unit (83.5 percent).