Colorado Avalanche Head to the Big Apple


The Colorado Avalanche will face The New York Rangers tonight, and they’ll need to send a lot of rubber toward The King if they hope to win.

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist should be leading the race for the Hart Trophy currently, but Patrick Kane is sneaking his way to the top. Regardless, The King has been on fire this year and beating the Rangers has been a very difficult task because of it.

If you read that article I linked to concerning the current Hart Trophy candidates, you noticed that cool stat about how the Colorado Avalanche are the only team worse than the Rangers when it comes to possession.

Yet, the Rangers are 17-6-3, and the Colorado Avalanche are 10-14-1. The Rangers are in a back-to-back set as they played the New York Islanders last night. In fact, they lost in the shootout to the Islanders.

In fact, I guess it’s unclear whether Lundqvist will even be in net tonight at the time of writing this, but for the sake of the article I’m going to assume. He’s played in 20 of the Rangers’ 25 games to this point, so I think that’s a safe assumption. However, he did play last night, so it’s possible that he won’t start in tonight’s game.

Here we go!

Game Notes

— The vulcanized biscuit hits ice at 5:00 P.M. Mountain time.

— This marks game 3 out of 4 on the road before the Avalanche return home on Monday 12/8 against the Minnesota Wild

— As was mentioned above, this is game two of a back-to-back set for the Rangers, so the Avalanche should jump on them early with speed.

— The Colorado Avalanche lost to the Rangers on home ice a few weeks back, so they should look to return the favor tonight.

— The Colorado Avalanche are 3-2 in their last 5 games, and things are starting to look up if they can continue to put some wins together.

— The Avalanche have only played in four division games (3-1) up to this point, and only nine games against the West (5-4). That is tied for the fewest in both categories out of any team in the West. Wins in the division and in the West will guarantee this team a playoff spot, they just need to hang on against the East.

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— The Rangers are 2-3-1 in their last six, and had lost 3 in a row prior to Monday’s win against the Hurricanes.

My apologies for the unknown nature of this article, writers are bound to deadlines, an occupational hazard I suppose. Fortunately, even with all of the things that I don’t know about this game, there are some things that I do know folks!

Colorado Avalanche get Alex Tanguay Back (Perhaps)!

For example, I know that Alex Tanguay is supposed to return to the lineup tonight. If Alex Tanguay does return to the lineup it will mean a couple of changes. Here’s the forward lineup I discussed with my buddy (he’s a die-hard Avs fan like the rest of us) just a few days ago:

Gabe Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Matt Duchene

Alex Tanguay — Mikhail Grigorenko — Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod — Carl Soderberg — Blake Comeau

John Mitchell — Chris Wagner — Jack Skille

At first, I wanted Mitchy back at center on the 4th line, as I’m sure many of you are also calling for, because who is this Wagner cat anyway? Well, he’s a right shot, so you don’t put him on the left wing, especially not when the right winger on that line is already a right-handed shot as well. Those wing-to-wing passes just don’t make sense.

Next, Mitchy is a left-handed shot so he can find his place on the left wing, and we all know how versatile a player he is anyway.

Finally — and this is the reason I wanted Mitchy back at center to begin with — Chris Wagner has a MUCH better FO percentage than Mitchell this year.

John Mitchell’s face-off percentage is a dismal 44.3% this year, which is much below his average. But, Wagner’s, on the other hand, is a steady 50.8%

Aside from these explanations as to why the 4th line is set up the way it is, the other lines are obviously going to stay the way they are. Cody, Sody, and Comy (my name for the line) have found some obvious chemistry, and I think they’ll prove more productive when relegated to third line minutes.

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All fans know that Patrick Roy has no intent of breaking up the first line. Why would he when they can play as many minutes as they have, and have found the chemistry that they have with one another?

Finally, putting Tangs and Iggy back together is just a smart move, and I think that Grigs will find some real chemistry between the two of them.

The only casualty of these line combinations is that Andreas Martinsen will either ride the pine, or get sent back to the AHL, which is a shame because I really like the way he plays the game.

In light of these possible changes (I think they’re pretty set in stone if Tangs does in fact return), what players should we keep an eye on tonight?

Players to Watch

Alex Tanguay is the obvious player to watch because even when he’s been in the lineup his performance has been disappointing, aside from a few games. He’s certainly not the player he was last year, but maybe he’s not playing with the right line-mates. Grigs is more comparable to Ryan O’Reilly’s style, and a reunion with Iggy should bode well for Tanguay.

— M-m-m-m-m-m-m-maaaaaat Duchene! The kid just keeps scoring, and he’s now sitting right behind MacK for the scoring lead in an Avalanche uniform with 23 points. It’s safe to say that the Matt Duchene fans are used to him being back in business, so keep an eye on him tonight.

Tyson Barrie scored in Tuesday’s contest against the New Jersey Devils, and hopefully that is a sign of things to come. The Colorado Avalanche need more contributions from the back-end if they hope to climb back in the playoff picture.

— At the time of writing this, it’s unclear whether Semyon Varlamov or Reto Berra will start, but my money is on Reto Berra based off of Roy’s comments in the post-game presser on Tuesday night. When asked if Roy minded Reto Berra complicating things as far as the goalie situation, Roy responded well:

"I love it. That’s what we need. This is how we’re going to have a chance to get back in the playoff race, and we need solid goaltending, we’re aware of that, but we still have a lot of confidence in Varly."

Mats Zuccarello is a player to keep an eye on for the Rangers. He’s the only player on their club to surpass 20 points this season so far (22) and that’s saying a lot when you play with Rick Nash.

— Speaking of Nash, he hasn’t had the most impressive season so far, but he is a good player and the Avalanche certainly need to be aware of where he is on the ice at all times.

— Finally, I’ll be watching Oscar Lindberg tonight because he’s a rookie with some serious skill, and even though he’s cooled down since his hot start, he’s still been playing consistently good hockey for this Rangers club.

The Colorado Avalanche will be looking for back-to-back wins tonight for only the second time this season. That just hurts to say, we’ve only won more than one in a row once, and that’s when we rocketed off three in a row. That sort of performance is unacceptable.

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Hopefully they’ll be able to put another W in the column tonight because all steps forward are steps in the right direction.

Anyway, this disjointed mess of an article will serve as your preview my dedicated Avalanche fans. You know what, there’s some hope out there that I won’t end up being that far off from how things are actually going to shake out.

I hope you enjoyed the read folks because I’m not normally this candid, and I can rarely get away with it, but I think this situation provides the perfect opportunity to be candid. Hopefully I won’t hit brick for this because information is still serviceable for the fact that it’s information.

Anyway, what do you think Avs Nation? Good or bad line combinations? If it were up to you, what lines would send out tonight in light of Tanguay’s predicted return? Who do you think the Avs should start in goal in the game tonight? Let us know in the comments!