It’s coming down to the stretch of the season where every game and point matters more than ever. While the Colorado Avalanche has been able to escape the grips of fighting for a playoff spot as the season draws to a close, it is no longer the case.
Wednesday night, in front of a national audience, they will duel with a team they so desperately need to catch and get ahead of in the standings. This team is none other than hated-division rival Minnesota Wild.
The Avs are coming off a heartbreaking 4-3 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning not even 24 hours ago. It was a phenomenal matchup between the two most recent opponents in the Stanley Cup Final, and probably disheartening for it to end in a shootout rather than the extra frame.
Regardless, the Avs played timid in their overtime period and didn’t have or take many chances. While it maybe had to do with missing guys like Cale Makar, the singular point is still huge in their run to the playoff. Obviously, though, two would’ve been nice.
Makar is still out for tonight’s affair on the back end. Other defensive news includes Erik Johnson is out for “weeks”, while Josh Manson may return tonight. If he does come in, expect one of Brad Hunt or Kurtis MacDermid to drop out of the lineup. Despite getting into Minnesota around 3 a.m. local time, can they get the job done?
Artturi Lehkonen (62) - Nathan MacKinnon (29) - Valeri Nichushkin (13)
Mikko Rantanen (96) - J.T. Compher (37) - Evan Rodrigues (9)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Alex Newhook (18) - Logan O’Connor (25)
Matt Nieto (83) - Denis Malgin (81)
Devon Toews (7) - Sam Girard (49)
Bowen Byram (4) - Josh Manson (42)
Andreas Englund (88) - Brad Hunt (17)
Kurtis MacDermid (56)
Update: Ben Meyers was sent back down to the Colorado Eagles. It might mean Josh Manson is returning to the lineup and either Kurtis MacDermid moves up to play forward, or the Avs will roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen again.
The Wild watched and waited patiently last night’s matchup between the Avs and Bolts for their next opponent. Minnesota is coming off a shootout loss of their own, a 2-1 loss at home to the Florida Panthers Monday night.
The Wild have lost four of their last five games which has supported the Avs as they themselves haven’t been too hot either. Therefore, both remain very close in the standings and are within touching distance of third in the Central Division along with being out of the playoffs.
Kirill Kaprizov continues to lead the way from the front, with his team-high 30 goals and 33 assists. He will need some support from other guys like a resilient Joel Eriksson-Ek who has 20 goals and 24 assists himself. Should the Wild win, it will put them in a prime position and distance themselves from the defending Stanley Cup Champions as they quest for the playoffs.
Kirill Kaprizov (97) - Ryan Hartman (38) - Mats Zucarello (36)
Brandon Duhaime (21) - Joel Eriksson-Ek (14) - Matthew Boldy (12)
Mason Shaw (15) - Frederick Gaudreau (89) - Marcus Foligno (17)
Connor Dewar (26) - Sam Steel (13) - Ryan Reaves (75)
Jacob Middleton (5) - Jarod Spurgeon (46)
Jonas Brodin (25) - Mathew Dumba (24)
Jon Merril (4) - Calen Addison (2)
It should be the usual number-one netminder for the Wild, Marc-Andre Fleury going between the pipes as he looks to stop the Avs offense as he has time and time again. His season stats include a 16-12-3 record with a 2.98 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage.
Meanwhile, Jared Bednar had mentioned in his post-game press conference last night he wouldn’t be opposed to playing Alexandar Georgiev multiple times in this back-to-back stretch of the season. With Pavel Francouz injured and Jonas Johansson, the man called up in his place not having a ton of NHL experience, especially in a big-time scenario such as this, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Georgiev get the nod once again over Johansson.