Tonight the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights are set for a western conference heavyweight showdown at Ball Arena in Denver, CO. The Knights are 6-1-3 in their last ten contests after a shootout loss to the Dallas Stars this past weekend. Colorado is 7-1-2 in their previous ten, having just dominated the Calgary Flames 4-1.
All roads lead through Denver if any western team wants to make an authentic cup run. The Avalanche have made it abundantly clear over the last month of hockey. After a shaky start riddled with injuries and poor puck luck, the Avalanche find themselves just three points behind the Dallas Stars with two games in hand. Not only is it realistic for them to win the division, but I think they will likely win the West entirely. The Avalanche are five points behind the Golden Knights with two games in hand. That makes tonight's fun all the more critical.
The Avalanche recently made some noteworthy trades by acquiring Keith Kinkaid from the Boston Bruins and Jack Johnson from the Chicago Blackhawks. The Kinkaid move indicates that Pavel Francouz's recovery might take longer. If Frankie makes a comeback according to the original timeline (before the season's end), It will be good to have three reliable keepers heading into the playoffs.
Jack Johnson is back with his old Stanley cup winning squad. His stint in Chicago was short-lived and didn't feature much production, but that's not really why you bring a guy like Johnson in. Some fans had come to like what they've seen from Andreas Englund, who was sent to Chicago in the exchange, but it's pretty clear the Avalanche value pedigree over potential. They are both seventh defenders, so it's not a big deal, and it’s good to have JJ back at the end of the day.
Artturi Lehkonen — Nathan MacKinnon — Valeri Nichushkin
Evan Rodrigues — JT Compher — Mikko Rantanen
Andrew Cogliano — Alex Newhook — Logan O'Connor
Matthew Nieto — Denis Malgin — Kurtis MacDerid (Ben Meyers)
Devon Toews — Samuel Girard
Bowen Byram — Josh Manson
Jack Johnson — Brad Hunt
Note: Kurtis MacDermid wore a heavy right hand in a tilt with Milan Lucic against the Calgary Flames. Based on how that fight ended, I'd consider him a game-time decision. Ben Meyers and Jonas Johansson were recalled.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights have had a very successful regular season thus far and find themselves atop the West. They will have to go without their captain and best defensive forward, Mark Stone, tonight and likely for the rest of the season. They still have plenty of talent on their roster. Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault round out a still dangerous Knights team. Vegas ownership famously remarked, "win one in the first six seasons" upon expansion, so this is their make-or-break year.
One of the Avalanche's potential trade targets has been acquired by the Knights Ivan Barbashev. We didn't expect St. Louis to trade inside their division, but it's officially a fire sale in the land of the Blues.
The @GoldenKnights acquired Ivan Barbashev from the St. Louis Blues earlier today. @mike_p_johnson believes that Vegas might not be done. @ErikaWachter | #VegasBorn | #NHLTonight pic.twitter.com/94Ce15tyUu— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) February 27, 2023
Ivan Barbashev — Jack Eichel — Jonathan Marchessault
Reilly Smith — William Karlsson — Mike Amadio
Will Carrier — Chandler Stephenson — Phill Kessel
Paul Cotter — Brett Howden — Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague — Zach Whitecloud
Note: Logan Thompson is listed as "out" for tonight's game in Denver.
It is safe to assume that Alexandar Georgiev will be in the net for Colorado in what is likely the biggest game of the regular season so far. Georgiev has been solid recently and looks to continue that against one of Colorado's pseudo-rivals.
Adin Hill is the unconfirmed starter for the Knights after returning to practice a couple of days ago after being previously injured. Returning against a team like the Avalanche might not be what Hill prefers. He must be at his best to slow down Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche, who seem to have found their scoring touch.
We will be live today on our YouTube channel at 3:30 PM MT. to discuss:— Mile High Hockey Lab (@MHH_LAB) February 27, 2023
• Keith Kincaid and what that says about Pavel Francouz’s status.
• Jack Johnson back in town.
• Importance of winning the west/central division and much more!#GoAvsGohttps://t.co/XjCwfzSBHV