Colorado Avalanche: 3 Storylines vs New Jersey

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 14: Jon Merrill
NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 14: Jon Merrill /

The Colorado Avalanche enter the second game of their three-game road trip along the East Coast in facing the New Jersey Devils.

The Colorado Avalanche are on fire. Well, they’re pretty warm anyway after beating the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden with a score of 4-2.

You can never be too high after wins or too low after losses, not for long anyway. The game against the New Jersey Devils represents the mid-point of their three-game roadie. They’re heading into the Prudential Center for the first and only time this year.

Colorado split its series with New Jersey last season, winning the last contest 3-2 on March 9. The Colorado Avalanche are 21-14-2-3(tie) against the New Jersey Devils all time in the regular season. Of course, they also beat the Devils in seven games in 2001 to bring the second Stanley Cup to Colorado.

How to Enjoy the Game

Game time: 12 pm MT
TV Networks: Altitude TV (Avs feed), MSG (Devils feed), Sports Network
Radio: Altitude Radio

Youth Movement

The Colorado Avalanche are in full swing with their youth movement, with all but two of their players under 30. There are several players who have under a year of NHL experience, and Alexander Kerfoot who’s just starting fresh in the NHL.

Well, though the Devils have three times as many over-30 players (which still brings the total to just six), they’ve infused their roster with several youngsters as well. Six of their players are on entry-level contracts.

One of those youngsters is Nico Hischier. The Devils chose him first-overall in the 2017 NHL Draft. They finished with 70 points in the 2016-17 season, a full 22 points more than the Avalanche, and they snagged the first overall draft pick anyway.

There’s someone else they snagged…

Kerfoot vs. Butcher

Hobey Award-winning defenseman Will Butcher, who graduated from Denver University, spurned the Colorado Avalanche this summer. He exercised his free agency rights (after four years of college hockey) and eventually signed with the New Jersey Devils.

Well, we got a small measure of revenge. Forward Alex Kerfoot spurned the Devils and signed with the Avalanche. And he’s a Harvard University graduate, which makes him automatically smarter than Butcher in my book.

In any case, Kerfoot seemed to find instant chemistry with Matt Duchene and Nail Yakupov. I didn’t expect him to make the roster out of camp, but he did. I’m ultimately satisfied with the “trade.”

Kerfoot also recorded his first NHL point, an assist on defenseman Tyson Barrie’s game-winning goal on opening night against the New York Rangers.

Avalanche Blueline

More from Mile High Sticking

The Colorado Avalanche blueline appears to be a puzzle wrapped up in an enigma. For the majority of the preseason, Colorado was working toward a blueline that would look like this:

Erik Johnson-Nikita Zadorov

Tyson Barrie-Anton Lindholm

Mark Barberio-Chris Bigras

Indeed, GM Joe Sakic remarked early on in the preseason that he expected Lindholm to be with the team. Then, on the eve of the start of the regular season, the Avalanche picked up defenseman Patrik Nemeth on waivers from the Dallas Stars and shipped Lindholm off to the San Antonio Rampage.

They then announced that Nemeth would be Barrie’s partner. That was surprising because Nemeth was coming in new. However, it also didn’t seem to change too much beyond Barrie’s pairing. That is, until Jared Bednar announced that Zadorov would be a healthy scratch because he still had some “catching up to do” after missing the training camp.

So in the game against the Rangers, we saw this defensive lineup:




Two observations. One, Barberio is not an adequate d-partner for Johnson. Erik Johnson ended up shouldering most of the d-duties. At one point, Barberio did his best Francois Beauchemin impression as he stood in the crease and watched the puck shoot past him into his own net.

Second, Mironov isn’t NHL-ready yet. Yes, he may have set some records in his conditioning, and he attended the entire training camp, but that doesn’t mean he belongs on the NHL ice. Indeed, Bednar seemed to realize that as he started double-shifting Johnson to play with Bigras.

That said, Bednar was dissatisfied with Chris Bigras’ conditioning last year, and Chris spent the season injury-plagued in San Antonio. All traces of that hobbling are gone — he was solid against the Rangers.

Now, reports are that Zadorov will be playing in today’s game after being in Bednar’s doghouse. When Zadorov answered questions during a post-practice presser, the whole “catching up to do” ruse was gone. He stated he didn’t know why he’d been scratched.

Oh, yeah, Anton Lindholm has returned from his brief sojourn in San Antonio. My guess is Bednar didn’t like what he saw from Mironov. Or Barberio. Or Bigras, for all I know.  Riddle. Wrapped in a mystery. Inside an enigma;

Side note: In the second game of the season, the goalie who missed a whole week of practice, Jonathan Bernier, will be getting the start.

Next: Duchene Staying Strong v Media

Do I think the Colorado Avalanche are going to win this game? I went with no against the Rangers, and we see that they proved me wrong. However, I have a good feeling for this game — I think Colorado could well be able to get a little winning streak going with a W in New Jersey.