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Preview: It’s a Caturday Catinee!

The Avalanche aim to poach Florida’s six-game win streak.

Colorado Avalanche v Florida Panthers Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Matinee Avalanche hockey on the first Saturday of 2024? What a treat.

The Colorado Avalanche are back in Ball Arena today for a Saturday matinee with the streaking Florida Panthers. Both clubs come into this contest playing their best hockey of the season, with both teams sporting seven wins in their last 10 games (FLA 7-3-0, COL 7-2-1). This could be a Stanley Cup Final preview between two currently compromised high-octane offensive clubs, so let’s see what we’re looking at for today’s matchup.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche enter this game in a good spot but are still looking to find another level with their game. Having secured points in six of its last seven games (6-0-1), the Avs are finding a way to get to the result they want consistently, but are still looking to string together solid performances. In a matchup against a potentially compromised cup contender, this would be a great time for the club to put all the pieces together, and start a new string of solid hockey as the upcoming schedule gets rough.

Additionally, the Avs will be without Bowen Byram for at least the next three games after being put on Injured Reserve. The defenseman was injured early in the 3rd period against Dallas Thursday night and didn’t return to that contest. No emergency recalls were made by Colorado ahead of today’s contest, so expect Caleb Jones to slot back into the lineup on defense for the time being.

Alexandar Georgiev is the projected starter for the Avs, who added another win to his league-leading 21 wins against Dallas, but again with less-than-ideal statistical numbers. The Bulgarian Netminder is still sporting a GAA near 3.00 and a sub .900 SV%, both of which NEED to get better if Colorado wants to make another serious Cup run. A standout performance against a surging club could be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Projected Lines

Jonathan Drouin (27) - Nathan MacKinnon (29) - Mikko Rantanen (96)
Miles Wood (28) - Ross Colton (20) - Valeri Nichushkin (13)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Ryan Johansen (12) - Logan O’Connor (25)
Kurtis MacDermid (56) - Frederik Olofsson (22) - Joel Kiviranta (94)

Devon Toews (7) - Cale Makar (8)
Sam Girard (49) - Josh Manson (42)
Caleb Jones (82) - Jack Johnson (3)

Alexandar Georgiev (40)
Ivan Prosvetov (50)

Florida Panthers

The Panthers are rolling into Denver surging, having won their last six games in a row dating back to Dec. 23, where they defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in the first game of their Cup Final rematch 4-1. On Thursday evening the rematch would head to Las Vegas, and while the Panthers again won by a score of 4-1, the club lost two of its most important players upfront within shifts of each other.

Aleksander Barkov didn’t return after taking an elbow to the head, and former Avs forward Evan Rodrigues didn’t return after blocking a shot. Neither figure to be out long-term, but Barkov and Rodrigues both occupy spots on Florida’s top line alongside Sam Reinhart, who was named the Panthers NHL All-Star representative earlier this week. With the Cats recalling prospect forward Mackie Samoskevich from the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers ahead of today’s contest, it appears the Panthers expect to face the Avalanche without at least one of those two guys in their lineup.

Sergei Bobrovsky projects to start in goal for Florida. The 35-year-old Russian Netminder hasn’t cooled off much at all since Florida’s magical playoff run and comes into this contest with a 19-9-1 record, a 2.39 GAA, and a .914 SV%.

Projected Lines

Carter Verhaeghe (23) - Aleksander Barkov (16) - Sam Reinhart (13)
Eetu Luostarinen (27) - Sam Bennett (9) - Matthew Tkachuk (19)
Jonah Gadjovich (12) - Anton Lundell (15) - Ryan Lomberg (94)
Mackie Samoskevich (25) - Kevin Stenlund (82) - William Lockwood (67)

Gustav Forsling (42) - Aaron Ekblad (5)
Niko Mikkola (77) - Brandon Montour (62)
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (91) - Dmitry Kulikov (7)

Sergei Bobrovsky (72)
Anthony Stolarz (41)

Goaltenders

As previously stated, it should be Georgiev against Bobrovsky in their respective creases.