The Colorado Avalanche needed to get back on track, and in their two-game homestand against Ottawa and Detroit they did more than just that - they wrecked some fools with a combined score of 13-3. Pretty good.
Traveling to Calgary is a tougher test, though, even in a down year for the Pacific Division powerhouse. Following the departures of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk in the offseason, the new-look Flames have struggled to keep pace in the playoff wildcard race.
Both teams have much higher ceilings than the current place in the standings, but most likely only one will make the playoffs. This is an important game.
Those blowout wins were so cathartic, it’s easy to forget this is still a team with major concerns. Playing with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in those games worked out nicely, but can it continue in a road game with less control over matchups? Tonight will be a stern test for the reimagined lineup.
It was nice to have an extra defenseman in the lineup to help keep Cale Makar and Devon Toews fresh, and both top-pair defenders played their best games in a long while with the extra rest. Of course, jumping out to big leads was the real reason their ice time was down, but having one more guy taking shifts in the mix certainly helped as well.
The flip side of this lineup is one fewer forward, though the fourth line for the last month or so was seeing so little ice time that losing a body from that group didn’t have much of an impact. Ben Meyers has been the biggest beneficiary of this change, turning his ice time with top six players moonlighting in the bottom six into several great chances - he just needs to finish a little better to show it on the stat sheet.
Both ends of the bench will need to find a good rhythm early in the Saddle Dome to build on this burgeoning win streak.
Artturi Lehkonen — Nathan MacKinnon — Evan Rodrigues
Valeri Nichushkin — J.T. Compher — Mikko Rantanen
Alex Newhook — Ben Meyers — Logan O’Connor
Andrew Cogliano — Anton Blidh
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Samuel Girard — Erik Johnson
Kurtis MacDermid — Brad Hunt
After two great wins in St. Louis and in Dallas that had folks in the national media wondering if the Flames were back, Calgary dropped a dud in Nashville on Monday. Old friends Nazem Kadri and Nikita Zadorov will be pushing hard to make up for that loss against their former club.
Calgary’s biggest problem this season has been a lack of production from former 100-point left winger Jonathan Huberdeau, acquired along with defenseman Mackenzie Weegar in the Matt Tkachuk trade with Florida this summer. He got a big contract to go along with big expectations but is currently on pace for just 62 points.
Defensively, the Darryl Sutter-coached Flames are still structurally sound and boast an impressive lineup led by Weegar, Noah Hanifin, and breakout star Rasmus Andersson, having the best season of his young career despite the team’s less-than-stellar campaign.
Speaking of Sutter, he seems to think Colorado is still good.
The Avalanche are currently sitting outside a playoff spot but Darryl Sutter would bet on Colorado to make the playoffs— TSN EDGE (@TSN_Edge) January 17, 2023
Dillon Dube - Elias Lindholm - Tyler Toffoli
Milan Lucic - Nazem Kadri - Jonathan Huberdeau
Andrews Mangiapane - Mikael Backlund - Blake Coleman
Trevor Lewis - Adam Ruzicka - Walker Duehr
Noah Hanifin - Rasmus Andersson
Chris Tanev - Mackenzie Weegar
Nikita Zadorov - Michael Stone
After two great games from Pavel Francouz at home, Alexandar Georgiev should be rested and fresh for this start on the road.
Calgary’s ace netminder Jacob Markstrom has struggled this season, posting a sub-900 save percentage for the first time as a starter. Backup Dan Vladar has been better, but he played two games ago in Dallas so expect to see Markstrom tonight.