Carolina Hurricanes (20-25-10) at Colorado Avalanche (27-25-3)
Pepsi Center, 9 p.m.
TV: FS-Carolinas, Altitude
The Hurricanes have faced the Western Conference only 10 times this year and have a middling record of 4-4-2 against those teams. Out of who they have faced in the Western Conference, the division they have had the most success against it he Northwest as they are 2-1-0 against them with wins over the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers. What this means is....well nothing really in the grand scheme of things. It's only three games and making conclusions based off that is just silly, but figured that the fans could use a confidence boost after that tough OT loss against Anaheim the other night.
If you want a real jolt of confidence for tonight's game, it's worth mentioning that the Canes are coming off one of their better road efforts of the season. They may have ended up taking the loss, but they played a solid game overall and will hopefully carry over that effort into tonight's game against the Avalanche.
The Avalanche are a better team than the Ducks so this will be a more difficult test for Carolina but they are coming off three strong games in a row, so their confidence has to be pretty high right now. There's only two games left to go in the road trip, so accumulating points now will be important.
Lines & game notes after the jump
Tlusty - Staal - Ruutu
Bowman - Jokinen - Skinner
Nodl - Sutter - Dwyer
Stewart - Brent - LaRose
Gleason - Allen
Faulk - Harrison
Spacek - McBain
Landeskog - O'Reilly - Mueller
Jones - Stastny - Hejduk
Galiardi - McClement - Winnik
McLeod - Van Der Guilk - Kobasew
Quincey - Johnson
Hejda - O'Byrne
O'Brien - Barrier
Getting to know the Avalanche
Much to my surprise, the Avs have a pretty good team this year. After PDO'ing their way into the playoffs two years ago, they came crashing back down to Earth and I figured their rebuilding would continue but they have actually played some really good hockey. Their Fenwick close percentage is at 51.6%, which is the seventh best in the league and both their powerplay and penalty kill are in the top five when it comes to creating and supressing shots. So why are they sitting at 12th in the Western Conference?
First of all, the difference between 12th and 8th place in the West in only three points so it's not like they are far out of the race. Secondly, their goaltending on the penalty kill has stunk, namely Semyon Varlamov and his .824 PK save percentage. His play at even strength hasn't been much better and it's the reason why we're seeing Giguere tonight instead. Also, the Avs are seeing a reverse of what happened to them two years ago during their "playoff run." Instead of the team shooting lights out, they are struggling to find the back of the net as their team shooting percentage is only 6.7%, which is below the league average. Daniel Winnik, Gabriel Landeskog, Erik Johnson,TJ Galiardi and Kyle Quincey have all fallen victim to horrible shooting percentages thsi year and that's just scratching the surface. The Avs should stay in contention for a playoff spot and could possibly make it in.
- As "Ruutu-gate" continues, the fans are still unsure of whether or not the Finn will be on the Canes come next season but it appears that he's closer to being re-signed than traded at this point. Ruutu has been playing some of his best hockey of the season the last few games and I expect for that to continue tonight. Will it result in yet another goal? Possibly. Just remember, his on-ice shooting percentage has been sitting at 10% for the last two years. If the Canes keep him long-term (I'm talking six years or so), I wouldn't expect it to stay there for the entire contract. I hate to play Devil's advocate but I figured that it was worth mentioning.
- Cam Ward is making his twelfth consecutive start tonight and we might as well just stamp "Workhorse" on his forehead at this point because that's what he's been all season long. His save percentage was sitting at .898 around December and it's jumped all the way to .913 now.
- Nodl-Sutter-Dwyer are coming off a rough game where they got tagged for a collective -1 and I'm not sure which line they will be assigned tonight. It seems likely that they will be matched up against the Landeskog-O'Reilly-Mueller line since that's the Avs' de-facto first line with Duchene out, but it's possible that they might get matched up against Stastny's line too.
- Speaking of Landeskog, he would be my pick for the Calder if he can pick up his scoring. He is only a teenager and is driving possession better than almost anyone on the Avs AND he's facing tough competition. Stuff like that shouldn't be overlooked.
- Staal or Skinner are going to see a lot of Jan Hejda and Ryan O'Byrne tonight as they are the Avs shutdown pair and get the bulk of their tough minutes for defensemen. Erik Johnson and Kyle Quincy are also worth keeping an eye on but for completely different reasons.
- Bowman-Jokinen-Skinner are coming off one of their best games of the season but unfortunately, they had no points to show for it. I'm hoping that changes tonight and I'd prefer to see Bowman score because he's played great and hasn't netted a goal in two months. His time is coming.
- It's hard to explain Jiri Tlusty because while corsi numbers are horrible, he is performing above the team average if we go by scoring chances and is playing well in his own end. Consistency has been an issue with him but he's looked a lot better this year than he ever has before and there's no denying that. This could be the result of playing with Eric Staal but he's made some wonderful individual efforts this year that we haven't seen from of him in the past. He's definitely having an interesting season.
Enjoy the game and let's go Canes.