Les Habitants @ Avalanche: Game 25 Preview


The Montreal Canadiens are in town tonight, to help the Avalanche finish off a little three game home-stand. While the Canadiens take to the ice in Denver, a good chunk of the Avalanche roster will be getting treated with ice. The injury woes of the Avalanche hit the team hard again on Saturday night, forcing the Avs to once again showcase their depth and adaptability.

John Mitchell re-injured his leg/hip (7-10 days) and Marc Andre Cliche suffered an oblique injury (1-2 weeks) on Saturday night. The team also announced that Jamie McGinn is facing a serious reality of needing season-ending back surgery. Dennis Everberg and Ben Street are close to making a return, and Jesse Winchester remains in limbo with vision issues stemming from the concussion he suffered this pre-season.

With the recent influx of injuries to the forward core, and the guys currently on the shelf not quite fully healed, the Avs made a call to Cleveland for some reinforcements.

It’s difficult to predict how the Avalanche lineup is going to look exactly. Michael Sgarbossa will probably jump into the lineup at center with Mitchell and Cliche out. Colin Smith is also a natural centerman who will probably also crack the lineup if Street isn’t ready to go.

You have to expect the top two lines will continue to be: Jarome IginlaNathan MacKinnonGabriel Landeskog and Ryan O’ReillyMatt DucheneAlex Tanguay. The Avs top guns are starting to heat up a little bit, with the help of the team’s leading scorer, defenseman, Tyson Barrie.

Defensively, the Avalanche should have the same pairings they ran on Saturday night against Dallas. Brad Stuart is still a ways out with his hamstring injury, with reports saying he will not be likely to return until at least mid-December.

In net, the Avalanche will ride the hot pads of the youngster, Calvin Pickard. Patrick Roy wants to give Semyon Varlamov some more solid practice time before he makes his return to the starting role. Reto Berra will don the baseball cap. This also prolongs Roy/Sakic having to make that intriguing decision between Pickard and Berra for another couple of days.

Keys to the Game

1. Get the first goal. The Montreal Canadiens are a perfect 8-0-0 when they score first this season, making them one of two teams in the NHL with a perfect record when they do so. The Habs also are 10-0-0 when they lead after the 2nd period. Simply put, this team is nails when playing with a lead.

The Avalanche, on the other hand are 4-5-0 when they score first, which is the third worst mark in the NHL. The Avs are comfortable coming from behind, but teams just aren’t doing that against Montreal this year. Seems better to deny Montreal the type of situation they excel at. It’s an interesting little story-line for this game tough. If anyone can crack Montreal, it’s the comeback kids, right?

2. Shoot the lights out on the power play. The Avalanche finally busted out of their 1-for-35 drought with the man-advantage against Dallas, with a pair of PP goals. The real key to the Avalanche power play right now is pulling the trigger, and getting shots toward the net. The Avs have been deservedly mocked online for having a passing play rather than a power play of late. Tyson Barrie, Nathan MacKinnon, Ryan O’Reilly, and Co. need to save the cute for their Instagram selfies. Don’t overpass. Get rubber on net.

3. Calvin Pickard. I can’t overstate what Calvin Pickard has done for this team. The Avalanche were at risk of becoming irrelevant in the playoff picture, but are instead a win away from leveling off their record to a point-per-game pace. Thanks largely to the heroic efforts of Calvin Pickard. Pickard is asked to give the team one more big start before Varlamov returns.

With three wins in four games already, including two relief shutouts keying huge comeback wins last week, Pickard has already won the hearts of Avalanche nation. Another big effort from him to break the hearts of our syrup loving friends would be the whip cream on top of the pancakes.

The game faces-off at 7 pm MST on Altitude. The Jets vs. Dolphins game figures to be a dud on MNF, so lets settle in for some hockey on this first night of December. Let’s go Avs!!