With the calendar flipping to October and with it the second week of exhibition play the Colorado Avalanche decided it was time to get serious about preseason preparations and flew a respectable lineup to Texas to face the Dallas Stars. With the full starting defense intact the Avalanche put in a good defensive effort and took home a 3-1 victory.
It was the visitors who controlled play with a 13-9 shot advantage through the first 20 minutes but the game remained tied after the first period. The Stars began taking some momentum back in the second frame largely due to several power plays in their favor but Pavel Francouz stood tall in net and kept Dallas off the board for a scoreless game though the first two periods of play.
Finally the Avalanche broke through on the power play to start the third period when Artturi Lehkonen took a great feed from Mikko Rantanen in the slot just 54 seconds into play and solved Jake Oettinger. Lehkonen showed that his new role on the man advantage could pay early dividends.
Mikko Rantanen to Artturi Lehkonen on the power play get Colorado on the board. pic.twitter.com/jr70m9Esc5— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) October 4, 2022
Lehkonen wasn’t done yet as he scored yet another goal from a similar spot on a great feed this time from Evan Rodrigues to put the Avalanche up two at 12:37.
Artturi Lehkonen with his second of the night. 2-0, Avs. pic.twitter.com/hVysNOnB06— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) October 4, 2022
Just after the Stars’ fifth power play of the evening expired they got on the board at 15:24 on a shot from newcomer Nils Lundkvist after numerous failed clears to cut the Avalanche lead in half to 2-1. However, at that point there wasn’t much time left for the Stars to get much more going and with a half-hearted 6-on-5 attempt Rodrigues scored a goal of his own to put the Avalanche up 3-1 for the final score.
What a difference playing the best defensive core in the league makes as the Avalanche brought their entire starting six on defense and it showed. Colorado’s identity and competitive advantage starts from their back end and they cannot play Avalanche hockey without it. The group looks like it is ready to hit the ground running on the season and even previewed the very intriguing three-defenseman second power play unit.
Clearly there is still a battle for the last depth forward spots as all the remaining extra forwards except for Mikhail Maltsev played in this contest. Ben Meyers picked up both a penalty and assist while being more involved in the play. Martin Kaut showed his defensive polish with a good chunk of time on the penalty kill and a key clear on the 6-on-5 to preserve the win. Those two should have jobs locked up when the regular season begins.
The injury status of the team is the biggest question moving forward with both Nathan MacKinnon and JT Compher missing practice before this game and then utility forward Jacob MacDonald could not finish the contest. Add in the uncertain timeline on Darren Helm and Val Nichushkin to a very absent Gabe Landeskog and it is difficult to peg just how many extra forwards will be required to open the season but it’s becoming clear at least a couple are needed.
The final preseason game at home in a rematch against Dallas at 7:30 p.m. MT on Wednesday, October 5th.