The 2021-22 schedule has not gotten off to a tremendous start for the Colorado Avalanche, as they take a 1-3-0 record and three-game losing streak into Tampa to take on the defending champion Lightning. The matchup will mark the final game of the three-game South-Eastern road trip that has seen Colorado drop games to both Washington and Florida. With injuries, suspensions, and some shaky performances up and down the lineup, Avalanche coach Jared Bednar will be looking to more lineup adjustments as key pieces like Devon Toews and Valeri Nichushkin work their way back into the lineup.
Tonight marks the 400th career game for Avalanche defender Ryan Murray. The new Avalanche defender has logged 16:11 minutes per game in the young season and has played a key role in the Avalanche penalty kill. Murray will need to have a solid performance tonight in his defensive end to cap his 400th NHL appearance with a win against Tampa.
A second key to an improved Avalanche performance will be getting better goal-tending. Off-season trade acquisition Darcy Kuemper was given the night off in Thursday night’s 4-1 loss to Florida, with Jonas Johansson getting the start in net. With a rebuilt defense in front of him, Kuemper has struggled out of the gates, posting an extremely poor .890 save percentage and 3.79 goals against average in three starts this season.
One highlight of the poor start to Colorado’s season has been the emergence of J.T. Compher in the offensive zone. While held off the scoresheet in Miami, Compher has four points through the first four games of the season. With his new role on the first power-play unit, this could be the season we see Compher finally break that 20 goal plateau.
Mikko Rantanen will look to continue his point streak, having a point in each of the first four games of this season.
#Avs lineup against Tampa, per Jared Bednar:— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) October 23, 2021
Lots of line blending. Kaut is out b/c Avs needed a center on the fourth line.
The defending Stanley Cup champions come into tonight’s matchup with a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde season to this point, going 0-2-0 at home and 2-0-0 on the road. Tampa will look to turn this around at Amalie Arena against the struggling Avalanche. This year’s Lightning squad features former Avalanche players Brian Elliott and Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare. Elliott has yet to appear for Tampa this season, while Bellemare has an assist through his four games with the Lightning.
The biggest surprise this season for Tampa has been the disappointing play of Andrei Vasilevskiy. Widely considered the finest goaltender in the NHL, the Russian goaltender has an uncharacteristic .892 save percentage and 3.22 goals against while appearing in every Tampa game this season. While this is likely just a result of the small sample size, there were major losses in the off-season for Tampa at both the backend and the bottom six.
On the offensive end, the Lightning has been carried by their big three of Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Nikita Kucherov. Stamkos leads Tampa with seven points through four games, with Hedman chipping in six assists in a whopping 26:03 average ice time. If Colorado can hem in Hedman and Stamkos, they have a good shot at grounding the Lightning with Kucherov missing tonight’s contest with an injury.
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Steven Stamkos
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph
Patrick Maroon - Ross Colton - Corey Perry
Boris Katchouk - PE Bellemare - Taylor Raddysh
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Andrej Sustr
Kuemper (1-2-0, 3.79, .890) will be looking to bounce back after a night off for Colorado. Tampa will likely turn to Vasilevskiy (2-2-0, 3.22, .893) as they search for their first home victory of the season.