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Open Thread: Colorado Avalanche vs. Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m.)

It’s a Colorado Avalanche gameday!

Washington Capitals v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Alexander Ovechkin brings his goal quest to Denver for a matchup with a rejuvenated Avalanche squad tonight at Ball Arena. This is the first of two games in the season series, with Colorado winning both in the 2022-23 campaign. Can Ovechkin get things going before the All-Star Break? Or will the return of Arturri Lehkonen and Bowen Byram bolster an already talented Avalanche roster?

Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche have been plenty successful this season without Captain Gabe Landeskog and while facing another seasonal wave of injuries otherwise. They sit in second place in the Central Division, have a strong contender for the Hart Trophy on their roster in Nathan MacKinnon, and might finally return to total health.

Val Nichushkin remains in the player’s assistance program, and understandably, there isn’t a timetable for his return. Still, everyone else who’s not currently in the lineup seems to have a plan. Arturri Lehkonen and Bowen Byram will return this evening, so their health journey will hopefully be complete. Nikolai Kovalenko has returned to Torpedo’s KHL lineup, and Gabe Landeskog appears on track for a playoff return. There’s potential for Jared Bednar and the Colorado Avalanche to wield one of the league’s deepest rosters come playoff time. Start the music.

Bo and Lehky’s return should boost the Avs tonight in a game against one of the NHL’s fragmented and floating franchises. Keep an eye on the Logan O’Colton Wood/Roaring 20’s line again tonight, as their linear style should lend to an exploitation of Washington’s potentially heavy legs.

Projected Lineup

Jonathan Drouin — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Miles Wood — Ross Colton — Logan O’Connor
Arturri Lehkonen — Ryan Johansen — Andrew Cogliano
Kurtis MacDermid — Fredrick Olofsson — Joel Kiviranta

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

Washington Capitals

Things haven’t gone so well for the Capitals this season, who appear to be on the other side of a glorious era with just one thing left to take care of. Catching Gretz. The problem is that one thing isn’t being handled as quickly as the Capitals might have hoped. The greatest goalscorer in NHL history has just eight goals in 42 games. Ovi needs 65 goals to catch the great one, which doesn’t appear likely this season.

Scoring has been a problem for Washington up and down the lineup, as they only average 2.36 goals a game. They must do well to slow Colorado down if they want to pull off the upset.

Projected Lineup

Max Pacioretty — Dylan Strome — Alaiksei Protas
Alex Ovechkin — Connor McMichael — T.J. Oshie
Anthony Mantha — Evgeny Kuznetsov — Tom Wilson
Beck Malenstyn — Nic Dowd — Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Martin Fehervary — John Carlson
Joel Edmundson — Nick Jensen
Rasmus Sandin — Trevor Van Riemsdyk

Goaltenders

I’d expect former Avalanche and Stanley Cup champion Darcy Kuemper to get the nod against his old buddies. His netminding has been decent this season for the Capitals, with a 3.21 GAA and .892 SV%. According to ESPN, Alexandar Georgiev is likely to be in the opposite net for the Avalanche, making his 39th start of the season with a projected total of 68 games.

Alexandar Georgiev stats via ESPN app
ESPN app

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