Last night the Colorado Avalanche dropped a tough one to the Montreal Canadiens. They’ll have little time to reflect on things as the division rival Winnipeg Jets welcome them to town. Here are five storylines heading into the game:
The Avalanche has only lost two straight games in regulation three times this year. So when they lose, they almost always respond with a victory. In games on back-to-back nights, the Avs are 3-3 in the second game. A .500 record isn’t terrible in those situations. It helps that the Avs have a lot of young legs and are able to get up for these back-to-back games.
John Mitchell is likely out and Paul Stastny might not play as the team might rest him in the back-to-back situation in order to protect his aching back, which caused him to miss four straight games. With Mitchell and Stastny out, expect to see a second line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Max Talbot. Also forward Paul Carey will likely be inserted back into the lineup and the Avalanche would go with 7 defenseman with Cory Sarich or Ryan Wilson being the extra man. If Stastny is able to play, it’s possible that Roy would still go with 7 defenseman in order to give his group some rest following the back-to-back.
Reto Berra Debut
Avalanche fans will get their first look at Reto Berra tonight as he gets the start against the Jets. The Avs acquired Berra on trade deadline day and then signed him to a 3-year extension last week. He had a 9-17-2 record with a .897 save percent and 2.95 goals against average with the Calgary Flames before the trade. Those numbers aren’t anything spectacular, but head coach Patrick Roy and, more importantly, goalie coach Francois Allaire obviously sees something in him and trust him to be the backup goalie for the next 3 years. We’ll see what he has to offer tonight.
When these two teams met just last week, there were a combined 50 hits and plenty of post-whistle scrums. The Avalanche and Jets don’t seem to like each other very much. The Jets have a lot of physical players and they love slowing down the speedy Avs with their size. The Avs aren’t a team to back down though, which leads to games like we saw last Monday. Expect the Jets to test Berra early, not only with shots, but with their bodies. They were whistled for 2 goalie interference penalties against Semyon Varlamov in the last meeting and invaded his crease countless times. The Avs have to do a good job protecting their new teammate.
Watch Dustin Byfuglien
Byfuglien is a force in just about every game and in four games against the Avs this year, he’s done a great job throwing his weight around and making an impact. When he decides to vacate the point and come below the circles, a forward is usually left with the responsibility of picking him up and the Avs don’t seem to have a forward that can matchup with him. I’d like to see Gabriel Landeskog take on a bit more responsibility against Byfuglien since he is the Avs biggest and most capable forward defensively.
**UPDATE** Dustin Byfuglien is out tonight with a lower body injury. Bad news for the Jets, good news for the Avalanche.
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