Frozen Fury Preview: Avalanche vs Kings


“They’re a big, strong, tough team.” Ryan O’Reilly about the LA Kings

Every year the Los Angeles Kings face a team for a preseason game in Las Vegas, and it’s usually the Colorado Avalanche. Only three times of the 15 Frozen Fury match ups have the Kings faced another team — the Phoenix Coyotes in 1999, the San Jose Sharks in 2001 and the New York Rangers in 2013. (Holy premonitions, Batman!)

The game traditionally gets played on the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Paradise, Nevada — has been since 1997. The Frozen Fury serves as the predecessor to the NHL Winter Classic, which is held annually on New Year’s Day.

#1: Colorado Avalanche Scoring

As is usual with series games, the storylines tend to be the same.

Of course, the most important storylines for the Avalanche have to do with whether they can get in the win column, and whether they can score any goals. For an offensive-minded team like the Avalanche, those two stories go hand-in hand.

The Avalanche have scored only seven goals in eight games. They’re putting pucks on net — 33 in the game against the Kings in Colorado Springs. Granted, most of those came in periods two and three plus overtime. But that’s ok — that’s something called momentum.

Landeskog admits it “sucks” to lose a hockey game, but he likes the momentum going into this final preseason game against the Kings:

"“[We have to] put a few more pucks on the net and try them out early with traffic, but I think just building off second and third, I think we’ll be fine.”"

They’ll go in — they always do when you have shooters the caliber of Matt Duchene, Nate MacKinnon, Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly, not to mention the veterans and a couple-three D-men very capable of scoring goals.

#2: Third Line

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So, the Avalanche don’t exactly have a third line. John Mitchell’s still out with migraine syndrome (at least I imagine it’s a syndrome — you can’t have the same migraine for that long, can you? Not and function.) Jamie McGinn’s still recovering from summer back surgery. Jesse Winchester is recovering from a concussion suffered against the Calgary Flames.

Daniel Briere is the obvious choice to replace Mitchell as third line center. However, he spent time in the top-six because Jarome Iginla sat out with an ankle injury. No news yet if he’s playing in the Frozen Fury game.

Of course, role player Max Talbot scored the lone Avalanche goal against the Kings in the first match. Between him and a couple prospects, Colorado could just cobble together a third line.

#3: Nate MacKinnon’s Sophomore Slump

Ha, ha — that’s a joke. He’s come back leaner and meaner — literally. He put on 14 pounds of pure muscle over the summer and currently measures at nine percent body fat.

Oh, and he was seen getting tips on the finer points of dropping the gloves from none other than Cody McLeod. No slumping of any kind going on with MacKinnon

#4: Semyon Varlamov

He was not as sharp as he could be in his two preseason games thus far. That’s bad news for a team that relies so heavily on its goal tending. He finished last season with a .927 save percentage. However, his preseason save percentage is a meager .898 . If the Avalanche are still struggling with goal scoring, that’s not enough.

Backup goalie Reto Berra, on the other hand, came back from a season of training with goalie coach Francois Allaire with fire in his belly. After a slumpish start in Anaheim, he’s been solid in net. He made an impressive 42 saves against the Kings in Colorado Springs.

Landeskog said of him after the loss:

"“He played great. He showed a lot of improvement during the off-season, showed up in shape for camp. Certainly played well tonight”"

Head coach Patrick Roy has also been singing his praises. So, at least the Avalanche have one goalie they can count on.

Whatever the results of the Frozen Fury game, the Colorado Avalanche do have many of their key pieces lined up and ready to go. As Landeskpg points out, they can’t expect to just flip a switch when the regular season starts. However, if there’s any time for them to be flopping around, trying to get their footing, it’s now.

I think the real Avalanche will be playing in Vegas, though.