Tonight the Colorado Avalanche will be on the road against the New Jersey Devils. It will be the first of a three game road-trip that ends at MSG against the New York Rangers. Colorado looks to win two in a row for the first time since their last meeting with New Jersey on December 13th. The Devils are looking to extend a winning streak to three games after beating Ottawa and Boston earlier this week.
The Avalanche are coming off what I consider a statement win against the former champion St. Louis Blues. Their offense was firing on all cylinders, and the defense seemed to cut down on offensive zone turnovers and odd-man rushes. I’m not saying there weren’t any costly mistakes on the back end, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as we’d seen in the previous three-game losing streak.
To me, the most impressive part of the game was the apparent chemistry found between defender Samuel Girard and forward Nazem Kadri. Let’s hope to see more of that.
Nathan MacKinnon takes his Hart candidacy tour to New Jersey with sixty-two points and twenty-five goals at the exact halfway point of the season. Pro-rate that over the remaining forty-one games, and he will end up with a whopping one hundred and twenty-four points and fifty goals. The last Avalanche player to reach the coveted fifty goal mark was Milan Hejduk in the 2002-2003 season.
Avalanche rookie defender Cale Makar is also on pace to etch his name into the Avalanche record books, aiming to be the Avalanche’s first defensive player to win the Calder Trophy. He currently has thirty points in thirty-three games. Something that has not been achieved since Nicklas Lidstrom did it in the 1991-1992 season.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Joonas Donskoi
Matt Calvert - Nazem Kadri - Valeri Nichushkin
Matt Nieto - J.T. Compher - Mikko Rantanen
Tyson Jost - Pierre Edouard Bellemare - Andre Burakovsky
Ryan Graves - Cale Makar
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Nikita Zadorov
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
The Devils are a tough team to pin down. On paper, they look like they could be one of the leagues quicker and more explosive teams. They made some serious moves in the off-season acquiring P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators, and trading for and signing KHL standout Nikita Gusev.
Unfortunately for the Devils, the experiment seems to have gone unfavorably. I imagine the aggressive tactics in the offseason aimed to bode forward Taylor Hall into resigning with New Jersey. Now Taylor is a Coyote, and the Devils look to be prepping for a rebuild.
Pavel Zacha - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Blake Coleman - Travis Zajac - Nikita Gusev
Miles Wood - Ben Street - Wayne Simmonds
Jesper Boqvist - Kevin Rooney - John Hayden
Andy Greene - P.K. Subban
Damon Severson - Sami Vatanen
Will Butcher - Mirco Mueller
Avalanche Head Coach Jared Bednar said after today’s morning skate that the lines will remain the same and that Philipp Grubauer will be getting another start. Grubauer had been in a bit of a slump before his last start against the Blues. Other than not tracking the puck well off of a Ryan O’Reilly face-off win and subsequent Pietrangelo slapper, I’d say Gruuuu was looking like his old miraculous self.
The Devils will likely go with Mackenzie Blackwood. Blackwood had a less than ideal 2019 and ranks twenty-seventh in save percentage among goalies with at least fifteen starts. He comes in with a SV% of .909 and a GAA of 2.79.