Despite a win on opening night, the Colorado Avalanche and their fans come into the second game of the season with a number of concerns on their mind. Playing without a number of key players, tonight’s game against the St. Louis Blues will be an early test of the team’s depth.
The Avalanche went 5-3 last season against the Blues in the regular season after losing the opening matchup between the two teams. The Avs will hope to get out to a better start in the season series this year.
Already without Nathan MacKinnon and Devon Toews, the Avs will be without a few more key players going into this matchup with the Blues. With Gabriel Landeskog suspended and Val Nichushkin now injured “week-to-week”, Colorado will be playing without half of their top-6 forwards.
In order to make up for the missing players, the team had to send Alex Newhook back to the AHL yesterday. They move was made for cap purposes as Newhook’s contract allows the team enough cap space go call up two extra forwards as opposed to one. This is a unique situation caused by Landy’s cap hit remaining on the book due to his suspension.
Alex Newhook's reassignment presumably was partially motivated by the salary cap. Without his salary ($908,333), the Avs have $2.306 million of space. That's just enough to call up Matteau ($750K), Megna ($750K) and Sikura ($800K), who make a combined $2.3 million.— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) October 15, 2021
In a corresponding move, the Avs have called up Jayson Menga (who was sent down after the game Wednesday night), Stefan Matteau and Dylan Sikura. The moves still only give the Avalanche 11 forwards meaning Kurtis MacDermid is likely to suit up as a fourth line winger tonight.
We won’t know where coach Bednar plans to play everyone until the game day skate. What we do know is that Mikko Rantanen and Nazem Kadri are going to need to make a big impact on the game offensively.
St. Louis Blues
For the Blues, this will be their first game of the 2021-22 season. With a bit of a new look, the Blues went out and acquired Brandon Saad and Pavel Buchnevich in the offseason in order to bolster their top-6 forward group. Saad will be looking to have a quick start to the season against the team that let him walk as a free agent.
After demanding a trade over the summer, Vladimir Tarasenko is back in the Blues lineup with something to prove. He, along with Saad and Buchnevich should make this Blues team a lot more dangerous than the one we saw last year.
Once the strength in St. Louis, the defense group might be a weakness for a team that has lost Alex Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn in back to back offseasons. Colton Parayko is going to need to log a ton of minutes and even then, this is a team that could give up a ton of scoring chances against.
The Avalanche will go back to Darcy Kuemper after the veteran netminder put up a solid performance Wednesday night. The team’s new starter stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced in his Avalanche debut.
For the Blues, we’re going to see Jordan Binnington who finished last season with and 18-14-8 record and a .910 sv%.