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Preview: Nazem Kadri and the Flames visit Colorado

The Avalanche are desperate for a statement win against the Calgary Flames.

Calgary Flames v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

The Avalanche and Calgary Flames are set for their showdown at Ball Arena tonight in downtown Denver, CO. The Flames are 5-5 in their last ten games, having lost to the Devils by a score of 4-2 most recently. Colorado is on a slide, losing five of their previous six games, but they got the better of the Flames in their first meeting. Can Colorado get back on the right track, or will Nazem Kadri and the Flames steal a road game?

Colorado Avalanche

Many of Colorado's struggles as of late can be attributed to puck luck, but some of it comes from self-inflicted wounds. Take Colorado's loss to Winnipeg, for example. If not for a costly mistake from Devon Toews at the end of the first period, the Avalanche would have, at minimum, been tied with the Jets after three frames.

Mikko Rantanen hit the post three or four times against the Flyers, who came into Ball Arena and handed it to the Avalanche. I think Mikko is poised to go off, but the most crucial component to his struggles can be found in Colorado's lack of success on the powerplay. Mikko had 37 points on the powerplay last season, but this year, Colorado is 20th in the league in powerplay percentage, and the approach feels slightly flat.

On the other hand, Nathan MacKinnon has been on fire as of late and is currently on an 11-game point streak and has a point in all 12 home games for the Avalanche. He's done all he could in Colorado's recent losses. Maybe with a bit of help, the Avalanche can get rolling again.

Projected Lineup:

Jonathan Drouin — Nathan MacKinnon — Logan O'Connor
Valeri Nichushkin — Mikko Rantanen — Tomas Tatar
Miles Wood — Ross Colton — Joel Kiviranta
Andrew Cogliano — Ryan Johansen — Kurtis MacDermid

Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Bo Byram — Josh Manson
Jack Johnson — Sam Malinski

Note: We saw the Blendnar lines initially against the Ducks last week and have since seen Ryan Johansen move to the 4th line center. Is Colorado still without actual center depth?

Calgary Flames

The Flames are a little hard to read this season. They have had impressive wins, like their victory over the Carolina Hurricanes last week. They also have more ugly losses, which has been the theme for Calgary so far.

Truthfully, this team hasn't been the same since Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk were a part of the squad. I wonder how fans and former teammates feel about the Tkachuk trade now that the dust has settled on the deal.

Projected Lineup:

Andrew Mangiapane — Elias Lindholm — Yegor Sharangovich
Jonathan Huberdeau — Mikael Backlund — Blake Coleman
Connor Zary — Nazem Kadri — Matt Coronato
A.J. Greer — Adam Ruzicka — Dillon Dube

Mackenzie Weeger — Rasmus Andersson
Noah Hanifin — Chris Tanev
Ilya Solovyov — Dennis Gilbert

Note: The Flames' usual starter and netminder, Jacob Markstrom, is listed as "out" ahead of tonight's game.

Goaltenders

Colorado will again turn to Alexandar Georgiev and hope he performs well in the blue paint. I, among others, had lofty expectations for Goergie this season, but much of that was due to the defensive group in front of him. Both have disappointed as of late as the Avalanche are giving up high-danger chances, and Georgie isn't making a lot of unexpected saves.

It will be Daniel Vladar or Dustin Wolf in the net for Calgary. Keep an eye on who leaves the morning skate first for the Flames. Vladar is 4-3-1 with a 3.44 GAA and a .877 SV% and is the likely starter for Calgary.