The Colorado Avalanche will face off against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights in what is one of the marquee matchups of this young NHL season. The Avs began the season on fire, winning their first six before being shutout in their next two, then rebounding with a convincing 4-1 win over St. Louis on Wednesday after Jared Bednar shuffled the lineup a bit. Meanwhile, Vegas has been the class of the league so far, winning ten games and losing just one in overtime against Chicago. It’s early, but this has Western Conference Finals preview written all over it.
After looking like world-beaters to open the season, the Avs regressed hard for two straight games, resulting in some lineup changes that seemed to provide a spark the team needed to get back into gear. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar benched Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Drouin in favor of Riley Tufte and Kurtis MacDermid on Wednesday. Tufte, in particular, had some impressive moments to help spark the Avs to a dominant win. The Avs sent Tufte back down to the Colorado Eagles (AHL) after the game on Wednesday, and he promptly scored a hat trick last night.
Currently, there is no word on whether Tufte will get called up to play for the Avs tonight, and it seems unlikely he will travel to Vegas given the Eagles game last night. Still, it’s clear that he is one of the storylines to follow in this young season, as the Avs think highly enough of him to give him a tryout in their top six. Whether MacDermid plays a second straight game is anyone’s guess (“played” is also a relative term given his miniscule 5:54 ice time against the Blues), but given the lack of news on Tufte (one would think if he were traveling to Vegas we would know the day of the game, but this is the notoriously tight-lipped NHL, so lineup projections are always going to be part guess-work), it seems likely the Avalanche will roll into tonight’s game with the lineup they sketched out at the beginning of the season.
Arturri Lehkonen — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Tomas Tatar — Ryan Johansen — Valeri Nichushkin
Miles Wood — Ross Colton — Jonathan Drouin
Andrew Cogliano — Fredrik Olofsson — Logan O’Connor
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Bo Byram — Sam Girard
Jack Johnson — Josh Manson
Vegas Golden Knights
The NHL’s defending Stanley Cup Champions have picked up right where they left off, looking dominant en route to a 10-0-1 record. That said, they have not been as overwhelming as their sparkling winning percentage suggests, especially when just four of their eleven games have come on the road (compared to six of the Avalanche’s nine games coming on the road). Three of Vegas’s victories came via the shootout, and half of their wins have come against basement dwellers like San Jose, Anaheim, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Montreal. Vegas has only played one team that the denizens of the desert consider to be a Stanley Cup betting favorite (Dallas, currently with the 4th best odds to win it all behind the Avs, Hurricanes, and Golden Knights), and it came in the shootout.
Tonight will be Vegas’ second big test of the season, and it will be fascinating to see how both Western Conference heavyweights match up against each other in the latest edition of this budding rivalry.
Ivan Barbashev — Jack Eichel — Jonathan Marchessault
Paul Cotter — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Pavel Dorofeyev — William Karlsson — Michael Amadio
Jonas Rondbjerg — Brett Howden — Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Ben Hutton — Brayden Pachal
Jared Bednar didn’t give Alexander Georgiev the night off on Wednesday just so he could rest him again versus the top team in the West, and you can bet every last dollar in your bank account that he’ll start in the net for the Avs tonight. Vegas’s starter is a little more uncertain, as they have split time between Aidin Hill and Logan Thompson in net, but given that Hill played the season opener and has one more start under his belt than Thompson, it seems like Vegas looks at him as their option 1a in net to Thompson’s 1b right now.