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Colorado Avalanche Gameday: Back at it

The Avalanche come out of the break with a tough test against the Tamps Bay Lighting

NHL: OCT 23 Avalanche at Lightning Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche begin the unofficial second half of their season with a tough test against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

This is the second meeting of the season as the Avalanche were able to edge out Tampa 4-3 in a shootout back in October. It’s the last time these two will play eachother this season unless both make it to the Stanley Cup final - and with the way both teams are playing, that’s a distinct possibility.

Colorado Avalanche

Though the team hoped he would be ready coming out of the break, Nathan MacKinnon has been ruled out for tonight’s game. The Avs superstar is still feeling the lingering effects of a concussion and facial fracture suffered on January 26th against the Boston Bruins.

The plus side to Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog bedding snubbed from the All Star game is that the two Avs stars have had more than a week off to rest and recharge for a long playoff push.

Earlier this week, Dylan Sikura was sent back to the Eagles as it looks like Darren Helm is ready to make his return to the lineup to bolster the fourth line.

Forwards

Gabriel Landeskog (92) - Mikko Rantanen (96) - Valeri Nichushkin (13)

Alex Newook (18) - Nazem Kadri (91) - Andre Burakovsky (95)

Tyson Jost (17) - J.T. Compher (37) - Logan O’Connor (25)

Kurtis MacDermid (56) - Darren Helm (43) - Nicolas Aube-Kubel (16)

Defenders

Devon Toews (7) - Cale Makar (8)

Jack Johnson (3) - Samuel Girard (49)

Ryan Murray (28) - Erik Johnson (6)

Tampa Bay Lightning

Once again the Lightning find themselves near the top of the NHL standings despite missing Nikita Kucherov for all but 11 games this season. While the one superstar battling through injuries, the veterans have been carrying the load as Steven Stamkos and and Victor Hedman lead the team with 52 and 47 points respectively.

With the loss of a few depth players from the Cup winning teams, the Bolts have been calling on youngsters like Ross Colton, Taylor Raddysh and Mathieu Joseph to fill the void and they are doing so admirably this year.

This game will mark the return of Pierre-Eduard Bellemare to Denver after leaving the Avs as a free agent this past summer.

Forwards

Defenders

Goaltending

As of this morning, neither team has confirmed who will be in net but given the time off, we should expect Darcy Kuemper to get the start for the Avs coming out of the break. For Tampa, there is the possibility that we see backup Brian Elliott instead of Andrei Vasilevskiy as most teams have been giving the All Star goalies an extra night off to rest.