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Colorado Avalanche Game Day: The battle for first place

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The two best teams in the West fight for first place in the division

NHL: Vegas at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche: 21-8-3

Vegas Golden Knights: 22-8-1

Puck Drop: 1:00 p.m. MT

Watch: NHL Network, Altitude, ATTSN-RM

Listen: Altitude 92.5, AM 950

The Avalanche pulled into a ties for first place in the West Division when they manhandled the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night. The game didn’t look like two juggernauts battling for first place. The play wasn’t particularly close at any point in the game. After Vegas scored in the first minute, the Avalanche took over and looked like a team that thought they had something to prove.

This afternoon, the two teams will match up again with the winner grabbing sole possession of first place.

Colorado Avalanche

Thursday night was one of the best games this team has played in a long time. The Avs put forth a well balanced attack as J.T. Compher and Cale Makar each scored their third goal of the season with Gabriel Landeskog and Joonas Donskoi each chipping in their 11th.

What was even more impressive than the offensive output was how the Avalanche shut down one of the highest scoring teams in the league. They were able to hold Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Jonathan Marchessault to a combined two shots on net.

The game showed that more than anything, the Avalanche’s depth is superior to Vegas. The second line was the only one held off the score sheet but that was because they were doing a great job of shutting down Stone and Pacioretty all night.

With the way the team played, it’s hard to see coach Bednar making any changes to the lineup.

UPDATE: no Bo Byram today

FORWARDS

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen

Brandon Saad - Nazem Kadri - Andre Burakovsky

Valeri Nichushkin - Tyson Jost - Joonas Donskoi

LOC - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - JTC

DEFENSE

Devon Toews - Cale Makar

Jacob MacDonald - Sam Girard

Ryan Graves - Dan Renouf

Vegas Golden Knights

Vegas is going to need to be a lot better if they hope to keep this game close. Despite a goal from the team’s leading scorer, their best players were absolutely shut down by Colorado’s stifling defensive play.

The team’s usually potent top-6 wasn’t able to generate anything against the Avs but they’ll have to change that if Vegas hopes to have any chance of hanging with the Avalanche at the top of the Division standings.

FORWARDS

Max Pacioretty - Chandler Stephenson - Mark Stone

Jonathan Marchessault - William Karlsson - Reilly Smith

Alex Tuch - Thomas Nosek - Nicolas Roy

William Carrier - Keegan Kolesar - Ryan Reeves

DEFENDERS

Alec Martinez - Shea Theodore

Brayden McNabb - Nick Holden

Nicolas Hague - Zach Whitecloud

GOALTENDERS

Philipp Gruabuer will be back in net for the Avalanche this afternoon. He was sharp on Thursday despite only facing 19 shots on net. A lot of goalies have a hard time staying sharp when they spend the game not getting a lot of work - Grubauer has proven this season that this isn’t an issue for him. He comes into today’s game with an incredible .931 sv%.

We are likely to see Robin Lehner in net today for Vegas this afternoon. After a rough start to the season, Lehner was shut down for more than six weeks to recover from an injury. He has been great since coming back, going 2-0 with a .927 sv% since his return.

UPDATE: Fleury gets the call for Vegas