Tonight, the Colorado Avalanche (2-4-0) are on the road for a one-game road trip as they face off against the St. Louis Blues (5-0-0). The Avs are desperately looking to string together wins as they look to shake off their slow start to the season.
The Avalanche comes into tonight’s contest still looking like a disjointed group. Chemistry is just not there and almost every player appears to be fighting a battle between their ears.
Since their opening night win on home ice against Chicago, the team has gone 1-4-0 while being outscored by opponents 21-12 all the while sporting abysmal numbers across a few key categories: power play (third-worst), penalty kill (middle-of-the-pack), average shots for per game (towards the bottom which is a stat that they typically excel in), and average shots against per game (among the top).
Should we press the panic button yet? Is Jared Bednar’s seat warming? No, of course not. There are 76 games remaining this season, still plenty of runway to right the ship and claw their way back into contention. Don’t forget, this team opened the season as the odds-on favorite to win it all – they are fighting a battle of conscience, which can be debilitating no doubt, but this team has the talent and firepower to contend, and we all know it. They know it.
On Wednesday, Coach Bednar mentioned that Samuel Girard did not travel with the team and therefore will miss his second straight game as he continues to nurse an upper-body injury because of a questionable non-call in Saturday’s contest with Tampa. Devon Toews has been cleared for “controlled contact” and depending on how he progresses, Bednar expects him to be cleared for full contact within the week. Toews traveled with the team to St. Louis and will participate in Thursday’s morning skate.
During Wednesday’s practice, the top two lines had a new look with Andre Burakovsky being elevated to the top trio while the Captain was shifted to a line with Nazem Kadri and Logan O’Connor. Another change Avs faithful can (hopefully) expect to see tonight is Jacob MacDonald being inserted into the lineup in favor of Kurtis MacDermid who quite evidently doesn’t belong on an NHL roster, however it doesn’t seem likely at the moment.
Andre Burakovsky – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen*
Gabriel Landeskog – Nazem Kadri – Logan O’Connor
Sampo Ranta – Tyson Jost – JT Compher
Jayson Megna – Darren Helm – Martin Kaut
Bowen Byram – Cale Makar
Jack Johnson – Erik Johnson
Kurtis Macdermid – Ryan Murray
ST. LOUIS BLUES
The Blues stroll into tonight’s contest sporting one of the few remaining unblemished records in the league (along with Florida and Carolina). Their 5-0-0 start is the longest season-opening winning streak in Blues’ history.
This Blues squad is a lot more formidable than last year’s version as the Avs found out a little in game two of the season. This iteration currently holds the second-best power play success rate in the league (37.5%) while also sporting the best penalty kill percentage at 93.8%. The Avs will need to come out determined if they hope to steal a win in enemy territory.
Kostin - Schenn - Perron
Kyrou - Bozak - Buchnevich
Barbashev - Thomas - Tarasenko
Neighbours - Joshua - Neal
Scandella - Parayko
Krug - Faulk
Walman - Bortuzzo
Expect the Avs to continue to ride Darcy Kuemper while the Blues will most likely throw Jordan Binnington between the pipes.
*UPDATE: Rantanen may not be in the lineup tonight as there was something bugging him at morning skate, according to Peter Baugh.