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Preview: Avalanche look to rebound against surprising Canucks

The NHL’s biggest surprise through the first quarter of the season comes to Ball Arena.

Colorado Avalanche v Vancouver Canucks Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images

Just as it looked like the Colorado Avalanche had righted the ship after a disastrous stretch of games, they flat out blew a winnable contest in Nashville, giving up two goals in sixteen seconds in the waning seconds of the game, and now they find themselves scrambling again to find some level of consistency. Tonight’s matchup should be an intriguing one, as the Vancouver Canucks have surprised practically everyone while being one of the top teams in the NHL to date, and this will no doubt be a measuring-stick game for both teams.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avs didn’t play that poorly against Nashville, they just had stretches where they stopped playing their game and the Predators took advantage of it. One thing that the Avalanche have clearly struggled with since their Stanley Cup title is not being able to pull games out when they’re not playing their best. That Cup team was deep enough that the Avalanche could afford to coast through stretches of games, knowing that the secondary and tertiary scoring could carry them on most nights where they didn’t bring their best. These Avs don’t have that luxury anymore, and it seems like every time they take their foot off the gas, the other team takes advantage of it.

The Avalanche still seem to be searching for an identity in this post-Cup world, as it has been made incredibly difficult to find any measure of consistency through what seemingly has been a non-stop deluge of injuries since they won the title. Last year was a mess, and this year is already starting to go off the rails a bit with injuries sidelining Gabriel Landeskog, Artturi Lehkonen and Pavel Francouz, in addition to players like Mikko Raantanen and Josh Manson being beat up as of late, as well as Samuel Girard missing some time for personal reasons (he will miss tonight’s game as well). It’s difficult for any team to find consistency with this many players moving around the lineup, let alone one who relies on a fast-paced skill game like the Avs do.

Projected Lineup

Valeri Nichushkin — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen

Jonathan Drouin — Ryan Johansen — Tomas Tatar

Miles Wood — Ross Colton — Logan O’Connor

Andrew Cogliano — Fredrik Olofsson — Joel Kiviranta

Devon Toews — Cale Makar

Bo Byram — Josh Manson

Jack Johnson — Caleb Jones

Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver is one of the few teams in the league with the high-end talent to match the Avalanche. Quinn Hughes is leading the NHL in points, and he scored an absolutely ridiculous highlight-reel goal a couple nights ago.

J.T. Miller is second in the NHL in points, and Elias Pettersson is tied for fourth. Cale Makar is a point behind him tied for sixth in the league in points. This has the potential to be a wildly entertaining end-to-end offensive game, and the Avalanche will have to bring their best effort to match the league’s highest scoring team.

Projected Lineup

Ilya Mikheyev - Elias Pettersson - Andrei Kuzmenko

Phil Di Giuseppe - J.T. Miller - Brock Boeser

Dakota Joshua - Teddy Blueger - Conor Garland

Nils Hoglander - Sam Lafferty - Anthony Beauvillier

Quinn Hughes - Filip Hronek

Ian Cole - Noah Juulsen

Mark Friedsman - Tyler Myers

Goaltenders

If the Avalanche are playing a team at the top of the standings, it’s safe to assume that Alexandar Georgiev will be starting that game. For the Canucks, they have gone with about a 70-30 split in playing time between starter Thatcher Demko and backup Casey DeSmith, and it would be surprising if Demko did not start against the Avalanche in what is perhaps Vancouver’s biggest game of the season.