The Avalanche: (35-13-4)
The Opponent: Los Angeles Kings (21-25-6)
Puck drop: 8:00 p.m. MT
Watch: ALT, BSW
Listen: [Radio] Altitude 92.5, AM 950
With only four games remaining in the regular season, it would seem at first glance that the Avalanche have little chance to make up the four points they trail Vegas in order to win the top seed in the West Division. That’s not the case.
If the Avalanche win their final four games in regulation, they will put themselves at the top of the West thanks to:
- a game in hand,
- a head to head matchup with Vegas,
- holding the tiebreaker by finishing with more regulation wins than Vegas.
Having home ice advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs would be huge as the Avalanche are a team that benefit greatly from being able to dictate the matchups with the last change. First place would also provide a much better matchup in the first round as it would allow the Avs to avoid the Minnesota Wild and take on a St. Louis Blues team that has struggled for large portions of the season.
The first step towards accomplishing this is another win tonight in Los Angeles.
Just before game time Friday night, Avalanche fans got some bad news as the team announced that Nathan MacKinnon wouldn’t be suiting up for the team. The reasoning was a lower-body injury and after the game, Coach Bednar said that MacKinnon was “banged up” and that the move was made out of an abundance of caution. It sounds as though the move was nothing more than a little load management to give their star player a little time off before the playoffs. Bednar added that there’s a possibility MacKinnon plays tonight but we won’t know until the pre-game warmup.
With MacKinnon out of the lineup, Tyson Jost found himself playing a lot of center for the team’s top line and you know what? He looked darn good doing it.
Partik Nemeth left Friday’s game after he hit the boards head first. The post game update is that he doesn’t have a concussion but that his neck is “sore”. It’s unlikely he will play tonight and we should see Dan Renouf take his place on the third pair.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon (maybe?) - Mikko Rantanen
Nazem Kadri - Alex Newhook - Andre Burakovsky
Val Nichushkin - Tyson Jost - Joonas Donskoi
Carl Soderberg - P-E Bellemare - JT Compher
Devon Toews - Cale Makar
Ryan Graves - Conor Timmins
Jacob MacDonald - Dan Renouf
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings got some bad news of their own just before puck drop on Friday as the team announced that Dustin Brown would miss the remainder of the season. His absence will allow the Kings to play another one of their youngsters as they look to build for the future.
Adrian Kempe - Anze Kopitar - Trevor Moore
Andreas Athansiou - Quinton Byfield - Austin Wagner
Alex Iafallo - Gabe Vilardi - Lias Andersson
Brendan Lemieux - Jaret Anderson-Dolan - Carl Grundstrom
Mikey Anderson - Drew Doughty
Tobias Bjornfot - Matt Roy
Olli Maatta - Sean Walker
After Philip Grubauer started Friday night, we will see Jonas Johansson in net for the Avalanche today. He has a 3-1-1 record and a .910 sv% since being acquired from Buffalo.
For the Kings, it looks as though they might be turning to AHL journeyman Troy Grosenick. The 31-year old was the backup to Cal Petersen last night and has an impressive 33 save win in his only NHL start earlier this season. There’s still the possibility that the Kings turn to veteran Jonathan Quick tonight as he was in the press box for the team last night.