After All-Star festivities that saw Cale Makar blow a tire in the fastest skater competition and the Avalanche trio nearly bring the Central Division back from an early deficit in the three-on-three tournament finale, Colorado gets something even more exciting: A little bit of health!
Bowen Byram is set to return to the lineup in Pittsburgh after three months nursing a lower-body injury, and once he shakes off the rust he should bring a needed mix of speed, skill, and reliable defense to a blueline that has been struggling to close out games.
Valeri Nichushkin will also be back in the lineup, bolstering the Avs forecheck and backcheck game as he always does and hopefully finding a way back on the scoresheet as he has been nearly a point-per-game player when healthy this season.
Of course, the Penguins will also be playing in this game. We’ll see if that matters.
COLORADO AVALANCHE PROJECTED LINEUP
Artturi Lehkonen (62) - Nathan MacKinnon (29) - Valeri Nichushkin (13)
Evan Rodrigues (9) - JT Compher (37) - Mikko Rantanen (96
Matt Nieto (83) - Alex Newhook (18) - Dennis Malgin (81)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Logan O’Connor (25)
Devon Toews (7) - Cale Makar (8)
Bowen Byram (4) - Sam Girard (49)
Brad Hunt (17) - Erik Johnson (6)
Kurtis MacDermid (56)
Pavel Francouz (39)
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROJECTED LINEUP
Jake Guentzel (59) - Sidney Crosby (87) - Rickard Rakell (67)
Jason Zucker (16) - Evgeni Malkin (71) - Bryan Rust (17)
Brock McGinn (23) - Jeff Carter (77) - Kasperi Kapanen (42)
Ryan Poehling (25) - Teddy Blueger (53) - Josh Archibald (15)
Brian Dumoulin (8) - Kris Letang (58)
Marcus Pettersson (28) - Jeff Petry (26)
Pierre-Olivier Joseph (73) - Chad Ruhwedel (2)
Casey DeSmith (1)