Coming off a 3-2 win in Columbus, the playoff bound Colorado Avalanche play host to the New York Rangers. Puck drop is scheduled for tonight at 9:00 pm ET. The Avalanche are currently in second place of the Central division; three points ahead of the defending Stanley Cup champion, Chicago Blackhawks. With a game in hand, the Avalanche can secure home ice advantage over the ‘Hawks for the first round of the playoffs. However, head coach Patrick Roy, is sure to not let his team look past the road tested New York Rangers. Entering tonight, Roy’s team has a record of 48-21-6 with 102 points. They are currently eight points behind the league leading St. Louis Blues for the President’s Cup. They have a winning record at the Pepsi Center of 25-11-3. In their last 10 games, the team is 6-3-1. There is much to like about the Avalanche, but also much to be feared.
With the recent injury to their leading goal scorer, Matt Duchene, and reports he may miss the next four weeks, Colorado will look to captain Gabriel Landeskog for an offensive spark. He is currently second on the team in points with 63, seven behind Duchene. However, he does lead the team in goals with 26, five of them on the power play, four game winning goals, and one overtime winner. In the past five games, Landeskog has had the hot hand. He has five goals and seven points, with a +3 rating. The second overall pick in 2011, Landeskog will be looking to upend his fellow Swedish countryman and Olympic teammate, Henrik Lundqvist. On a side note, he was a Ranger at one time….the Kitchner Rangers of the OHL that is. He played two seasons for the team, and was named captain during the 2010-2011 season.
To help fill the void left by Duchene will be rookie phenom, Nathan MacKinnon. After watching him center the top line of Landeskog and Paul Stastny during their last game against the San Jose Sharks, Roy was pleased with the mix. He had this to say to NHL.com:
“They played so well together. I thought with Lanny and Pauly they were more dangerous…He brings so much speed with Lanny on that line.”
Against the Sharks, MacKinnon set up the game tying goal for Landeskog and assisted on the eventual game winning, power play goal. For the season, MacKinnon ranks fourth on the team with 58 points. He has 23 goals, eight on the power play and five game winning goals. He currently is the top candidate for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the best rookie for the 2013-2014 season.
The other player to watch out for on the top line is Paul Stastny. He is fifth on the team in points with 53. He has 21 goals and is a +10 rating. Currently, he has a four game point streak, scoring one goal and five points in that span.
On defense, the team is led by Erik Johnson. For the season, he has eight goals and 35 points to lead all Avalanche defensemen. He averages nearly 23 minutes of ice time per game, so the Rangers will see plenty of him. Another defenseman that has been on the rise is Tyson Barrie. He has 10 goals and 33 points for the season. Of his 10 goals, four have been game winning goals. He leads all Avalanche defenseman with a +15 rating.
In goal, Semyon Varlamov gets the call tonight. He has a record of 38-14-5, with a 2.48 goals against average, a save percentage of .925, and one shut out. The former first round draft pick of the Washington Capitals in 2006 leads all NHL goalies in wins. The last time Varlamov faced the Rangers was in February, when he gave up five goals in the loss. Tonight, he hopes to reverse his fortunes and come out the victor.
Other team leaders: Ryan O’Reilly leads the team in goals with 26, Jan Hejda leads in hits with 163 and block shots with 132.