After a brutally disappointing loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Colorado Avalanche are back home for a two-game homestand against two Atlantic Division foes. Every point is big now.
Saturday they face a young Ottawa team that was toted as having one of the best top sixes in hockey preseason on Next Gen night.
The Avalanche have been on one of the coldest stretches they’ve had in the past three years. After dropping back-to-back games to the Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks the Avalanche have now lost seven of their last eight since returning from the holiday break.
Things aren’t going well for Colorado recently. They haven’t broken through the scoring barrier, injury luck seems to be staying put after Darren Helm went back to the injury list after reinjuring his core against Chicago, and the power play has only scored two goals in the past eight games. Combined with all that, the Avalanche are losing hockey games and digging themselves a hole that gets harder to climb out of with every loss they take.
Tonight, along with many more of the upcoming games, feel like must-wins for the Avalanche. Ottawa is a talented team in its own right, but the Avalanche are too good of a team to keep playing like this. They clearly know it, after it was said the players had their own meeting Friday before practice.
Colorado needs to get back in the win column and there’s no time like the present. Due to the aforementioned Darren Helm injury, the Avalanche have recalled Sampo Ranta from the Colorado Eagles to fill his spot.
Artturi Lehkonen (62) - Nathan MacKinnon (29) - Evan Rodrigues (9)
Alex Newhook (18) - J.T. Compher (37) - Mikko Rantanen (96)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Ben Meyers (59) - Logan O’Connor (25)
Jacob MacDonald (26) - Sampo Ranta (75) - Martin Kaut (61)
Devon Toews (7) - Cale Makar (8)
Sam Girard (49) - Erik Johnson (6)
Kurtis MacDermid (56) - Brad Hunt (17)
If I haven’t mentioned it enough already the Senators are a young talented team however, that hasn’t done much for them in the grueling Eastern Conference. They currently stand at seventh in the Wild Card race out East with a 19-19-3 record.
As expected Ottawa’s star-studded top six has been quite the force to be reckoned with. Through 41 games the Senators have five forwards with 37 or more points. Their depth isn't quite as impressive, as they have only four other players above double digits in points on the season. Similar to the Avs they are a fairly top-heavy team.
Ottawa’s biggest weakness this season has been what everyone expected it to be. They can score just fine, but they can’t keep the puck out of their own net. They have some of the best possession numbers in the NHL and are in the top ten of lowest expected goals against at 5-on-5, so it’s not their defense weighing them down.
The Senators’ tandem of Cam Talbot and Anton Forsberg has been pretty average through the first half of the season. Both goalies are hovering around the lower end of a .900 save percentage and have pretty low goals saved above expected numbers. Clearly, they’re not standing on their heads, but they’re also not actively costing the team games either.
Ottawa currently sits seven points out of a playoff spot, similar to the six that keep Colorado out. So they are also going to be desperate for a win in Ball Arena tonight.
Brady Tkachuck (7) - Tim Stutzle (18) - Alex Debrincat (12)
Claude Giroux (28) - Shane Pinto (57) - Drake Batherson (19)
Parker Kelly (45) - Dylan Gambrell (27) - Jake Lucchini (36)
Derick Brassard (61) - Mark Kastelic (47) - Austin Watson (16)
Thomas Chabot (72) - Artem Zub (2)
Jake Sanderson (85) - Travis Hamonic (23)
Erik Brannstrom (26) - Nick Holden (5)
With Pavel Francouz taking the start Thursday against the Blackhawks it is expected the Avalanche will go back to Alexandar Georgiev in net. Cam Talbot was also given a rest on Thursday as the Senators faced the Arizona Coyotes. He is also expected to start.