The Colorado Avalanche host the Montreal Canadiens for the third game of their four-game home stand. After splitting the home stand so far, they need a win.
The Colorado Avalanche are halfway through their four-game, home stand, the longest of the season so far. As of right now, they’ve split the series, beating their Central Division rival Dallas Stars and falling to the New York Islanders.
That makes tonight’s game the tipping point. If they win tonight, they have a chance to finish the home stand with a 75% win percentage. If they lose tonight, the best they can hope for is 50% — and .500 hockey isn’t acceptable when you’re playing at home.
Especially for a team that expects to be dominant at home.
The Avalanche are coming off a game that saw them fritter the play away to a hungrier Islanders team. A bad cover here, a bad turnover there, a goal or two they’d like to have back… they lost 4-1, with the captain getting the lone goal.
The Montreal Canadiens are coming off a game in which they were shut out by the Boston Bruins, falling 4-0.
All time, as long as the Avs have been in Colorado, the Avalanche have been the better team. They’ve gone 18-9-0-3 (ties). Last season, each team won at home to split the two-game series.
How to Enjoy the Game
Game time: December 19, 6:30 pm MT
TV Networks: Alt2 , SN, SN360, RDS (Isles’ feed)
Radio: Altitude Radio (FM 92.5)
As Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar put it in his post-game presser, the Islanders were the hungrier team on Monday night.
Well, the Canadiens should come with real hunger tonight. Not only were they shut out by their Atlantic Division rival Bruins, but the Habs are just hanging on to a playoff spot by three points. The Pittsburgh Penguins are breathing down their necks for the second wild card spot, and they have a game in hand.
Meanwhile, the Avs are pretty comfortable, for now, in the third spot in the Central Division. The Dallas Stars are five games back with the same number of games played. Even if they Avs drop out of third in the Central, they’re currently two points better than the top wild card team, Vegas, who’ve played two more games.
I’d like to emphasize the “for now.” Because the Avalanche going on a losing skid and the Stars going on a win streak could chance the playoff bracket pretty quickly. Playoff races are just too tight — Colorado can’t throw these points away. Especially home points.
The Colorado Avalanche play in the highest arena in the NHL, 5,280 feet. The next closest is Calgary, and they’re almost 2,000 feet lower, 3,428.
The Canadiens play at 761 feet.
As I’ve mentioned before, altitude sickness isn’t going to be a big factor with elite athletes. They’re in the best shape possible for human beings, and they have their tricks up their sleeves to combat the thinner air up here at a mile high.
However, the Avalanche should exploit a slight edge, especially in the third period. That’s a time that Colorado should try to hem the Habs in so they can’t make the quick line changes, which is one way teams try to combat the higher altitude. And the Avs should skate like the wind in the third to make the Canadiens suck at the thinner air.
Combine that with the usual home ice advantage of home fans and the last line change, and Colorado should have some home dominance.
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Forward Alexander Kerfoot partook in a full practice yesterday. At the time of writing, he was expected to play tonight. Kerfoot missed four games with an upper body injury that was bothering him for a while. That probably explains why his play dropped off — 12 games without a goal and only one assist in nine games.
During his post-practice presser, Bednar stated he hadn’t yet decided on which line Kerfoot would skate. In the last four games before being out of the lineup, Kerfoot had been demoted to the fourth line. Prior to that, he was on the second line.
I expect Alexander to be back on the fourth line, at least to begin with, as he gets back in game form.
Side note: Philipp Grubauer will be in net tonight.
After tonight, the Colorado Avalanche have another back-to-back series. They host the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday then head to Arizona on Saturday before embarking on their Christmas break. The Avs have three more games to finish out the year.