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Preview: Jonathan Drouin and the Avs return to Montreal

Drouin gets a chance to face off against his former team for the first time in Montreal.

Colorado Avalanche v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche are beginning to find their footing. After a shaky stretch in late November and early December, the Avs have won 10 of their last 13, including a dramatic comeback in Toronto on Saturday with their most short-handed lineup of the year.

Colorado Avalanche

The headline coming into this game is Jonathan Drouin. After spending his junior career on a wing with Nathan Mackinnon, the former third-overall pick opened his career in Tampa Bay demonstrating his elite play-making skills. In his last year on the Lightning, he scored 21 goals and added 32 assists, and signed a big six-year, $33 million deal with Montreal that off-season.

His first two years as a Hab produced similar stats, but an injury-filled third year drove his career off the rails for a bit. The following two seasons he would only play 78 games total, finishing with 43 combined points. His last year in Montreal was a certified disaster as he mustered just 29 points (and only two goals) in 58 games and was forced to sign a one-year prove-it deal in Denver.

Well, he sure is proving it. Drouin has eight points in six games in January, and he has been a point-per-game player over the last month that the Avs have gotten hot. He is an indispensable part of the team now, and he skates with what Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe called a “higher league” with Mackinnon and Makar, and he looks like he belongs.

Unconfirmed rumors had been swirling today that Valeri Nichushkin is about to enter the NHLPA’s substance abuse program, and it was just confirmed.

If they go with the same lineup they had in Toronto, they will again play with one hand tied behind their backs, as they will dress 11 forwards which includes 3-5 minutes per night Kurtis MacDermid, and seven defensemen.

Projected Lineup

Jonathan Drouin—Nathan Mackinnon—Mikko Rantanen
Joel Kiviranta—Ross Colton—Logan O’Connor
Andrew Cogliano—Ryan Johansen—Jason Polin
Kurtis MacDermind—Frederik Olofsson—Caleb Jones

Devon Toews—Cale Makar
Samuel Girard—Josh Manson
Jack Johnson—Sam Malinski

Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens are in the middle of a rebuild, and they find themselves in a particularly difficult rough patch, losing eight of their last eleven including three straight. That said, their play is clearly on the upswing, as two of their last three losses were in overtime at much-improved Philadelphia and versus white-hot Edmonton, and they beat the Metropolitan-leading Rangers in overtime. The Avs cannot sleepwalk through this game, as Montreal has very good players like Nick Suzuki, Mike Matheson, and Cole Caufield who can make them pay. Former Av Alex Newhook will not be in this game, as he is on IR.

Projected Lineup

Cole Caufield—Nick Suzuki—Juraj Slafkovsky
Rafael Harvey-Pinard—Jake Evans—Brendan Gallagher
Joshua Roy—Sean Monahan—Joel Armia
Michael Pezzetta—Mitchell Stephens—Jesse Ylonen

Kaiden Guhle—Michael Matheson
Jayden Struble—David Savard
Jordan Harris—Johnathan Kovacevic

Goaltenders

Sam Montembeault has played well for the Habs lately, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get another start tonight in what has been a very fluid goaltender situation in Montreal. For the Avs, it would be a surprise if Ivan Prosvetov did not start either tonight or tomorrow night on a back-to-back in Ottawa.