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Colorado Avalanche Game Day: Lightning storm into Pepsi Center

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After back-to-back last-minute(s) losses, the Avs try to get back on track against the NHL’s hottest team

Colorado Avalanche v Tampa Bay Lightning

After taking the game outside to the Air Force Academy on Saturday, the Colorado Avalanche return to Pepsi Center in hopes of finding their stride again.

Things did not go well at the Stadium Series for the Avalanche — or for Academy staff members, the NHL or the fans in attendance. It was clear Falcon Stadium was ill-prepared for the large-scale festivities at the NHL’s annual outdoor premier event.

Due to traffic, some fans missed most of the game while sitting bumper-to-bumper traffic getting into muddy parking lots. Inside, reports of what few concessions there were ran out of food and beer in the first period. The Avs lost their starting goaltender to friendly fire and then blew it with 55 seconds left in regulation. And then after the game, it took over three hours for cars to clear the parking lot with zero staff members directing traffic. It was an all-around nightmare for most in attendance, all 44,000 of them.

Tonight, however, the Avs are back in familiar territory and will try to shake off the past few days and get back to their winning ways against the NHL’s hottest team.

Colorado Avalanche

After winning five in a row, the Avs have struggled in the last two contests. On Thursday, Colorado watched a 2-0 first-period lead turn into T.J. Oshie tipping in the go-ahead goal for Washington with two minutes left in regulation. And then at the Stadium Series, Tyler Toffoli netted the league’s first outdoor game hat trick, while scoring the game-winner with 55 seconds remaining to help the L.A. Kings stun the Avs and their fans on Saturday.

Things really did not go well for the Avalanche at the Stadium Series. Not only did the team lose a game to the league’s second-worst team, Colorado lost its red-hot goaltender Philipp Grubauer when his own man, Ian Cole, ran into him in the crease. Later that period, Matt Calvert left with an injury as well. Both were diagnosed with lower-body injuries. Grubauer is out for an undisclosed amount of time, while Calvert is out “a couple weeks,” according to head coach Jared Bednar.

Forwards

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen

Valeri Nichushkin - J.T. Compher - Andre Burakovsky

Matt Nieto - Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare - Joonas Donskoi

Tyson Jost - Vladislav Kamenev - T.J. Tynan

Defense

Ryan Graves - Cale Makar

Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson

Ian Cole - Nikita Zadorov

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning will welcome a new face in the locker room tonight, after acquiring Blake Coleman from the New Jersey Devils on Sunday. Coleman has notched 21 goals this season and will be yet another offensive threat on an already potent Tampa Bay roster.

The Lightning have been absolutely dominating the league since late December. They’ve won 10 games in a row and have a record of 22-2-1 since the holiday break, and their 39 wins are the most in the league.

Tampa Bay’s 209 goals on the season are the second-most in the NHL and its 156 goals allowed is the sixth-fewest. Reigning league MVP Nikita Kucherov has scored 28 goals and 72 points thus far while their big defenseman Victor Hedman is third among league D-men with 49 points.

Last time these two teams faced off, Tyson Jost recorded a hat trick as the Avs toppled Tampa 6-2 in Florida back on Oct. 19.

Forwards

Steven Stamkos - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Anthony Cirelli - Alex Killorn

Patrick Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Tyler Johnson

Carter Verhaeghe - Mitchell Stephens - Yanni Gourde

Blake Coleman

Defense

Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk

Brayden Coburn - Luke Schenn

Goaltenders

With Grubauer out for an uncertain amount of time, it will be Pavel Francouz’s net for the foreseeable future, with Colorado Eagles netminder Hunter Miska backing him up.

Francouz is 19-13-5 this season, with a .925 save percentage, good enough for the sixth-best in the NHL.

In Tampa Bay’s net, it’ll be the 36-year-old veteran Curtis McElhinney over perennial Vezina-Trophy candidate Andrei Vasilevskiy. McElhinney is 7-6-2 this season with a .913 save percentage and 2.75 goals-against average.