The Colorado Avalanche will face the San Jose Sharks tonight in the second of a four-game homestand for the Avalanche. It’s the first time these two teams have met since the Sharks played spoiler to Colorado in Game 7 of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
San Jose comes to town after losing to the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Tuesday, but are 4-2-1 so far in January. As for the Avalanche, they’ve lost their last four games in a row, the last two of the which came in overtime.
The Last time the Colorado Avalanche were on a slide like this, they ended it by thumping the Nashville Predators in the infamous 9-4 victory on Nov. 7 — which, coincidentally, also came after a loss to the Dallas Stars. At the time, the Avalanche was without two of their injured stars in Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, and were suffering from a five-game losing streak. Then on a 7 o’clock game on a Thursday, the Avalanche had seven different goal scorers, led by a Joonas Donskoi hat trick. One can only hope for a similar coincidental result tonight. After that victory, Colorado took points from 14 of its next 20 games.
I’m not predicting the Avalanche score nine goals in tonight’s game against San Jose. I am saying, however, that they need to win and win big to loosen up a bit and get their mojo back. These three remaining home games will prove paramount before the NHL heads into the All-Star break.
Three victories could mean getting back into second place in the Central Division. A few losses could mean being the top wild-card team heading into the break, or worse, on the outside looking in. The Colorado Avalanche are at a crossroads.
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
Ryan Graves - Cale Makar
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov - Ian Cole
SAN JOSE SHARKS
Speaking of crossroads, the Sharks seem to have met one themselves. They let go of head coach Peter Deboer in December with hopes of turning the tide after getting off to a gruesome start. They were 15-16-2 at the time. Since then, they have only won six games.
If a coaching change didn’t solve issues in San Jose, is it time for a rebuild? If so, how does Erik Karlsson’s whopping eight-year, $92 million contract fit into that model?
To pour salt on the wound, their former coach Peter Deboer landed on his feet, signing up to be the head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights yesterday. San Jose’s most recent and hated rival unexpectedly let Gerard Gallant go and swiftly brought Doboer in overnight.
Evander Kane - Tomas Hertl - Kevin Labanc
Patrick Marleau - Antti Suomela - Timo Meier
Barclay Goodrow - Joe Thornton - Marcus Sorensen
Melker Karlsson - Joel Kellman - Stefan Noesen
Brenden Dillon - Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Erik Karlsson
Radim Simek - Mario Ferraro
Neither club has had their morning skate yet, but it’s likely the Avalanche have Philipp Grubauer between the pipes. Despite the loss to Dallas on Tuesday, Grubauer looked solid, stopping 25 shots to at least save the Avs one point. Getting consecutive starts may be just what Grubauer needs to get into a groove. He played on another level last March and April, and let’s hope he can find that same stride a little earlier this season. Grubi is (12-10-4) with a 2.92 goals-against average and save percentage of .909.
The Sharks will likely start Aaron Dell, who has played well in 2020. He is (5-4-1) to start the calendar year, a record made more impressive when you consider the sharks have managed a 2.87 goals-per-game average in support during that time frame. Dell has a GAA of 2.99 and .903 save percentage.