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Preview: Avs host the East-leading Bruins

Despite losing key members of this decade-plus run, Boston continues to dominate the East.

NHL: DEC 03 Avalanche at Bruins Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche will host the Boston Bruins in what is a potential Stanley Cup Final preview and at the very least, a significant measuring stick game for the Avs. Yet again Boston is one of the best teams in the NHL, while the Avalanche are looking to bounce back from a loss against Florida where they dug themselves a deep hole early.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avs are in the midst of a good stretch of hockey that could be better. They have won 9 of their last 13, but the losses stick out like a sore thumb. Getting drubbed at Winnipeg. Losing at lowly Chicago. Blowing a 4-0 late 2nd period lead in Arizona, falling down 3-0 to Florida before people could even reach their seats. The Avs are largely playing well, but their losses are immensely disappointing right now.

They have a chance to get that good feeling back against a team which has lost in regulation just eight times this year. This is a big game for Jonathan Drouin against a hard-nosed defensive team to prove that this recent hot streak is more than just that and that he can in fact go toe to toe with the biggest, baddest team on the block as a legitimate top-line forward.

The lineup will likely remain the same as it was against Florida, which will likely frustrate the mounting number of Avs fans wondering exactly why Kurtis MacDermid continually suits up and then only plays a handful of shifts (**raises hand**). If the idea is that he’s a big brute who can make the other team think twice about making a run at Colorado’s best players, he needs to actually be on the ice to have that kind of impact. No one is afraid of someone who is stapled to the bench. He played just four and a half minutes against Florida—compared to seven and a half for his two other fourth-line mates—and I wouldn’t expect a much different dynamic if he suits up tonight. It’s crystal clear that Jared Bednar does not trust him to play real minutes against good teams, but it’s anyone’s guess at this point as to why he still suits him up for those games.

Projected Lineup

Jonathan Drouin (27) - Nathan MacKinnon (29) - Mikko Rantanen (96)
Logan O’Connor (25) - Ross Colton (20) - Valeri Nichushkin (13)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Ryan Johansen (12) - Joel Kiviranta (94)
Kurtis MacDermid (56) - Frederik Olofsson (22) - Ben Meyers (59)

Devon Toews (7) - Cale Makar (8)
Sam Girard (49) - Josh Manson (42)
Sam Malinski (70) - Jack Johnson (3)

Boston Bruins

When Patrice Bergeron retired, he did so as the consensus best defensive forward of his generation. He was the heart and soul of the Bruins for nearly two decades, and a lot of people expected Boston to finally take a step back now that they lost their longtime leader in addition to key middle six forwards like David Krejci.

No one told Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Charlie McAvoy, as you wouldn’t know this team was any different from prior years just looking at the standings. The Bruins are still anchored by their two elite wingers and true #1 defenseman, but the depth looks different while still being just as effective. Boston scuffled a bit in the middle of December, dropping four straight games, but they righted the ship after Christmas and have won 4 of their last 5, including a demolition of Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Projected Lineup

Pavel Zacha (18) — Morgan Geekie (39) — David Pastrnak (88)
Brad Marchand (63) — Charlie Coyle (13) — Jake DeBrusk (74)
Danton Heinen (43) — Matthew Poitras (51) — Trent Frederic (11)
Jakub Lauko (94) — Jesper Boqvist (70) — Oskar Steen (62)

Matt Grzelcyk (48) — Charlie McAvoy (73)
Hampus Lindholm (27) — Brandon Carlo (25)
Parker Wotherspoon (29) — Kevin Shattenkirk (12)

Goaltenders

Given that Ivan Prosvetov started on Saturday, Alexandar Georgiev should start this game. The only thing that brings that into question is that Georgiev finished the last game, and that is 10 games in a row he now has finished out. If Bednar is focused on getting Georgiev some rest, he could give Prosvetov another shot, but I’d expect the Avs No. 1 to get the nod against the top team in the East.

For the Bruins, they have two true No. 1 goalies in Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, and they generally tend to play them every other game. Ullmark started against the Lightning on Saturday, so likely expect the Avs to see Swayman in net tonight.