The Colorado Avalanche are coming off one of their most embarrassing and “unacceptable” losses in recent memory (according to Nathan Mackinnon), and they will look to right the ship against a very talented New Jersey Devils team that is missing its most talented players.
On Saturday night, the Avs laid an egg against white-hot Vegas in what was their biggest game of the season to date. After playing a solid first period and giving up an unlucky goal after Cale Makar caught an edge, everything fell apart in the second. The Avs couldn’t stop turning over the puck and Vegas made them pay practically every time they did so.
Valeri Nichushkin had perhaps his worst game ever as an Av, committing multiple inexcusable turnovers and he was demoted from the second line before the night was over. Almost no one played well against Vegas, and you can be sure that the leaders in that locker room have challenged the entire team to prove that the result on Saturday night was a fluke and not a harbinger of things to come.
After the Avs lost two in a row on the road by a combined score of 8-0 last week, Jared Bednar shuffled the lineup a little, benching Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Drouin in favor of Riley Tufte and Kurtis MacDermid. It’s quite possible he does this again after getting boat raced on Saturday night, so the lineup going into tonight is as big of a question mark as it has been all year.
It’s exceedingly likely that if the Avs start out slow tonight, the second period will bring different line combinations than the first. Fredrik Olofsson is currently day-to-day with an upper-body injury, and he will not play tonight. Ondrej Pavel will step in for Olofsson, presumably on the fourth line, and make his NHL debut tonight.
Arturri Lehkonen — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Tomas Tatar — Ryan Johansen — Valeri Nichushkin
Miles Wood — Ross Colton — Jonathan Drouin
Andrew Cogliano — Ondrej Pavel — Logan O’Connor
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Bo Byram — Sam Girard
Jack Johnson — Josh Manson
New Jersey Devils
New Jersey will be finishing up a four-game road trip tonight, winning two on the road against Minnesota and Chicago while dropping a game to St. Louis in between. As expected, their offense has been excellent this year, led by the NHL’s leading point-getter in Jack Hughes, as they have scored at least three goals in every game this year save for the losing effort at the Blues.
The Avs will get a reprieve tonight, as Jack Hughes is designated as “week to week” after suffering an upper-body injury in the first period against St. Louis that the team described as “fortunate” to not be worse. The initial thinking was that he would be hurt for “months,” but that does not seem to be the case anymore. Hughes didn’t play against Chicago and he will not play tonight. First-line center Nico Hischier is also injured with an upper-body injury, and he likely will not play tonight against the Avalanche either.
Tyler Toffoli – Dawson Mercer – Timo Meier
Ondrej Palat – Michael McLeod – Jesper Bratt
Max Willman – Erik Haula – Curtis Lazar
Alexander Holtz – Chris Tierney – Nathan Bastian
Jonas Siegenthaler – Dougie Hamilton
Kevin Bahl – John Marino
Brendan Smith – Luke Hughes
If the Avalanche are playing a Stanley Cup contender, you can bet your bottom dollar that Alexander Georgiev will be in between the pipes. Vitek Vanecek has been New Jersey’s clear No. 1 this year, and given that he had the night off against St. Louis last weekend, he should be fresh and ready to play against the Avs tonight.