The Colorado Avalanche’s terrible, horrible, no good very bad month continues as they are slated to suit up yet another preseason-style lineup against a good team, as they host the New York Rangers on Friday night.
The Avs are coming off a loss at home to the league-leading Boston Bruins where outside of some Alexandar Georgiev heroics, their severely-depleted lineup was not close to being competitive. There is some good news on the horizon, however.
Jared Bednar said that it’s possible that Valeri Nichushkin and Darren Helm could return tonight, and Artturi Lehkonen was wearing a blue jersey at the morning skate today suggesting he is good to go and will play on the first power play unit. The moves to send both Sampo Ranta and Martin Kaut to the Colorado Eagles (Kaut must pass through waivers first) along with no corresponding move to bring a forward up suggests that Colorado should get back at least one of its veterans tonight. Defenseman Brad Hunt will be recalled to play his first game in an Avalanche uniform and Jacob MacDonald will reportedly go back to playing forward.
That said, Helm was spotted wearing a non-contact sweater at practice this morning while Nichushkin was not seen on the ice, so it seems likely that only Lehkonen will return tonight.
Alex Newhook (18) – Mikko Rantanen (96) – Artturi Lehkonen (62)
Andrew Cogliano (11) – J.T. Compher (37) – Logan O’Connor (25)
Dryden Hunt (22) – Ben Meyers (59) – Charles Hudon (54)
Jacob MacDonald (26) – Cal Burke (68) – Jean Luc-Foudy (93)
Cale Makar (8) – Devon Toews (7)
Erik Johnson (6) – Samuel Girard (49)
Andreas Englund (88) – Brad Hunt (17)
New York Rangers
After scuffling through a tough six-game stretch where they won just one game, the Rangers have rebounded with back-to-back wins against St. Louis and Vegas. They did this after tweaking their lines and giving Kappo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere more top-six minutes.
The Rangers currently sit fifth in an immensely competitive Metropolitan Division where just six points separate second place from sixth. New York will undoubtedly be scrapping and clawing for any points they can get against an undermanned Avalanche squad.
Alexis Lafreniere (13) – Mika Zibanejad (93) – Kappo Kakko (24)
Artemi Panarin (10) – Filip Chytil (72) – Barclay Goodrow (21)
Chris Kreider (20) – Vincent Trocheck (16) – Jimmy Vesey (26)
Vitali Kravtsov (74) – Julien Gauthier (12) – Ryan Carpenter (22)
Ryan Lindgren (55) – Adam Fox (23)
K’Andre Miller (79) – Jacob Trouba (8)
Libor Hajek (25) – Braden Schneider (45)
If the Avalanche were at full strength, it would be a guarantee that the Rangers would play superstar Igor Shesterkin in net. Still, given that their bottom six is more of an AHL lineup than an NHL one, it’s possible that the Avs see backup Jaroslav Halak.
That said, given that Georgiev is likely chomping at the bit to face his former team again after stopping 44 shots in his first meeting against them back in October, it’s expected that the Rangers will match the Avalanche’s first goaltender with their own and we will get another matchup between both Rangers goalies from last season.