After snapping a three game skid in their Sunday matinee against the St. Louis Blues, the Colorado Avalanche host the Philadelphia Flyers in Ball Arena tonight with a chance to begin a winning streak on home ice.
Following the returns of Valeri Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen last week, the Avalanche are beginning to get healthier just in time to close out the 2022 calendar year with some games against struggling teams. That starts with Philly, a team that started the season hot but cooled dramatically and is now playing about as poorly as expected before opening night.
With a surging Mikko Rantanen coming off a hat trick in Sunday’s 3-2 overtime win, improved play from the youngsters called up from the Colorado Eagles, and steady goaltending behind them, the Avalanche should be able to build on their recent improved play against these rudderless Flyers - but they’re still searching for depth scoring on a consistent basis.
As fun as rookie third liner Jean-Luc Foudy has been to watch, his trio with Ben Meyers and Charles Hudon have yet to actually put a goal past an NHL netminder. Combined with the fluctuating fourth line, the Avs bottom six in general hasn’t registered points from anyone not named Alex Newhook in quite some time — and Newhook got those points while on the ice with Rantanen.
On the blueline, Jacob MacDonald’s recent struggles forced the Avs to call up Brad Hunt, who has shined thus far in a sheltered, offensive first role including an assist on Rantanen’s first goal against St Louis. If he can maintain an effective offensive game without getting exposed defensively and Andreas Englund can continue to avoid running over his own goaltenders while playing a steady defensive game, the d-corps should be able to overcome the continued absences of Bowen Byram and Josh Manson.
And in net, Alexandar Georgiev should get the start after Pavel Francouz excelled on Sunday. He needs to bounce back a bit after a couple rocky starts in the last week, but overall this season has been excellent.
Artturi Lehkonen (62) - Mikko Rantanen (96) - Valeri Nichushkin (13)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - J.T. Compher (37) - Logan O’Connor (25)
Charles Hudon (54) - Ben Meyers (59) - Jean-Luc Foudy (93)
Dryden Hunt (22) - Alex Newhook (18) - Jacob MacDonald (26)
Sam Girard (49) - Cale Makar (8)
Devon Toews (7) - Erik Johnson (6)
Brad Hunt (17) - Andreas Englund (88)
Philadelphia comes into Denver tonight on the heels of a loss to the tanking Arizona Coyotes in which embattled former goalie of the future Carter Hart gave up five goals on 29 shots. Not a great game for the boys in black and orange.
Hart has looked like his promising past self at times this season and definitely still has an exciting future, but behind a young defense group and structurally unsound forward corp he’s not getting much help in the present. Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, and Cam York might be a strong blueline some day, but Rasmus Ristolainen and the aging husk of Justin Braun aren’t doing them any favors right now.
Among forwards, young Morgan Frost is looking like a star and they have some weapons in Travis Konecny and Owen Tippett, but Philly’s depth when healthy is about as strong as the current version of the Avalanche - it weak. With Sean Couturier on the shelf for the season, Kevin Hayes and James Van Riemsdyk are the Flyer’s only other recognizable offensive names and neither are who they once were in their primes.
Kevin Hayes—Noah Cates—Travis Konecny
Joel Farabee—Scott Laughton—Owen Tippett
James van Riemsdyk—Morgan Frost—Zack MacEwen
Nic Deslauriers—Patrick Brown—Lukas Sedlak
Ivan Provorov—Rasmus Ristolainen
Travis Sanheim—Justin Braun
Nick Seeler—Cam York
Expect to see Georgiev and Hart in net tonight, both looking to return to their stronger forms from earlier this season after a couple less than stellar performances in their last few starts.