Colorado Avalanche Look to Start Strong in Tampa Bay

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 20: Gabriel Landeskog
TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 20: Gabriel Landeskog /

The Colorado Avalanche start their four-game road trip against the best team in the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Colorado Avalanche are headed off on their winter sojourn in Florida. However, hopefully they take it as anything but a vacation. After a dreadful 1-4-0 homestand, the team needs to recoup some of their lost points — not to mention gain a little confidence.

That’s not going to be easy. The Tampa Bay Lightning are a very good team. They’re top of the NHL with their 19-6-2 record. They’re a decisive 11-2-1 at home. The only thing that might give the Colorado Avalanche some hope is that they’re 6-4-0 in their last 10 games. (Colorado is 4-5-1, but let’s not focus on that.)

The Lightning are coming off a 6-2 beating on the New York Islanders while Colorado lost 4-2 against the worst team in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres.

All time, the Avalanche have gone 17-9-2-3(ties) against the Bolts. Last season the two teams split the series with Colorado winning 4-0 in Tampa Bay.

How to Enjoy the Game

Game time: December 7 , 5:30 pm MT
TV Networks: Altitude TV (Avs feed), SUN (Bolts feed)
Radio: Altitude Radio (AM 950)

Players to Watch

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If you’re watching the Tampa Bay Lightning, you’re watching two players — Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. They’re just so good. Kucherov leads the entire NHL with 40 points, while Stamkos is right behind him with 38.

Their goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, isn’t exactly a slouch either. In 23 games, he has a 2.21 goals against average and a .932 save percentage.

Of course, the Colorado Avalanche goalie, Semyon Varlamov, is no slouch either. He showed flashes of brilliance again in the game against the Sabres — it looks like he’s finally recovered from his illness. He doesn’t have Vasilevskiy’s numbers — 3.09 goals against average, .905 save percentage — but he’s back to keeping the Avs in games.

Personally, I’m still keeping my eye on Duncan Siemens. It’s true that he got just under seven minutes of ice time in the Sabres game, but I thought he looked pretty solid. (Of course, I also thought Rocco Grimaldi looked good, and the Avs sent him back to San Antonio yesterday.)

The Colorado Avalanche are also getting their captain back. Gabriel Landeskog is returning after his four-game suspension. He’s likely to be back on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.

Naturally, the Avalanche’s hottest player right now is Nathan MacKinnon. His 20 points in 10 games in November earned him the NHL’s first star of the month. He scored the only two goals against the Sabres.

MacKinnon’s Hat Trick

Speaking of Nathan MacKinnon, he netted his first career hat trick against the Bolts on February 22, 2015:

So, between the 4-0 win in Tampa last year and MacK’s hatty, we should consider that there’s some chance Colorado could pull a win today.

Next: Should Jost be Sent to the AHL?

The two teams will meet one more time, in just nine days. On December 16, the Colorado Avalanche will host the Tampa Bay Lightning.