The Colorado Avalanche kicks off the 2020-21 regular season on Wednesday at home against the St. Louis Blues.
This will be the beginning of the Avalanche's 25th anniversary season since moving to Denver from Quebec in 1995-96. The Avalanche will wear a special "25th" patch on its jerseys and will debut new equipment colors to match the primary colors already included in the Avalanche's sweater.
This will be the second time in franchise history that the Avs will face the Blues in the inaugural game of the season, with the first coming at the start of the 1996-97 campaign (in St. Louis). The matchup will showcase the top two teams from the Western Conference last season with the Avalanche (92) finishing two points behind St. Louis (94), but the Blues played one more game. Colorado went 2-2-0 during the regular season's four-game season series, before picking up a 2-1 win in the round-robin portion of the postseason thanks to Nazem Kadri's buzzer-beater, game-winning goal with 0.1 seconds left in the third period.
This is the first of eight contests between the Avalanche and Blues this season and the first of four at Ball Arena. Colorado will play each of the seven opponents in the NHL West Division eight times.
Avalanche vs. St. Louis Blues
Ball Arena | Denver, Colo.
COLORADO-ST. LOUIS CONNECTIONS
Erik Johnson (No. 1 overall in 2006) and Ian Cole (No.18 overall in 2007) were both first-round draft picks for the Blues and both began their NHL careers in St. Louis…Avs assistant coach Ray Bennett spent 10 seasons on the Blues' coaching staff (2007-2017)… Jared Bednar was the head coach of St. Louis' then-American Hockey League affiliate in Peoria for two seasons (2010-2012)... Blues center Ryan O'Reilly was the Avs' second-round selection (No. 33 overall) in 2009 and began his career in Colorado… St. Louis forward Jaden Schwartz played two seasons at Colorado College (2010-2012) and teammate Tyler Bozak skated at the University of Denver for two years (2007-2009)… Blues assistant coach Jim Montgomery spent five seasons as the University of Denver head coach (2013-2018).
This will be the Avalanche franchise's 145th time facing off against the Blues, and the 101st contest between the two clubs since the team moved to Denver in 1995. The all-time series is tied at 63-63-18 between Colorado and the Blues, with Colorado owning a 49-38-13 mark since 1995-96. Wednesday's game will mark the eighth straight season as division foes since Colorado joined the Central Division in 2013-14. The two clubs will play in the West Division this year.
In the four meetings in 2019-20, Colorado was led offensively by Nathan Mackinnon (three goals, five assists) and Samuel Girard (six assists), while the Blues offensive production was piloted by David Perron (five goals, one assist) and Ryan O'Reilly (five assists).
Newcomers Devon Toews and Brandon Saad are set to make their Avalanche debuts after being acquired by the Avs during the offseason. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer is expected to start in-between the pipes for the second straight season, winning the season opener against the Calgary Flames last year by a score of 5-3.
After suffering many injuries during the postseason--losing players such as Gabriel Landeskog, Erik Johnson, Philipp Grubauer, Pavel Francouz, Matt Calvert, Joonas Donskoi and Conor Timmins--the Avs enter the 2020-21 campaign mostly healthy. Goaltender Pavel Francouz had a minor surgery over the offseason but will is healthy heading into the regular season. Veteran defenseman Erik Johnson did not participate in any on-ice work during Colorado's training camp and remains unfit to play.
SCOUTING THE BLUES
St. Louis begins the new season after finishing as the Western Conference's top team and second in the NHL (behind the Boston Bruins) during the 2019-20 regular season. The Blues owned a 42-19-10 record, accumulating 94 points before the season was cut short. They won the Central Division for the first time since 2014-15, which marks the 10th time in franchise history the club has won their respective division. The Blues went on to lose in six games in their first-round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Vancouver Canucks.
St. Louis owned the third-best power play in the league last year, converting on 24.3 percent of its opportunities. On the defensive end, the Blues surrendered just 190 goals, tied with the Avalanche and New York Islanders for fifth-fewest in the NHL.
The Blues owned a 19-12-5 away record last season, winning five of their last six on the road (5-1-0).
(OPPOSING) PLAYER TO WATCH: Torey Krug
The highly-touted defenseman will play his first game for the Blues after signing a seven-year deal with the club in the offseason. Krug has played parts of the last nine seasons as a member of the Boston Bruins organization, as he appeared in 523 games, tallying 337 points (67 goals, 270 assists). Last year, Krug (49 points) finished the campaign with the eighth-most points among defensemen, accruing nine goals and 40 assists in 61 games.
The Avalanche have averaged 3.75 goals per game in home openers since the franchise relocated to Denver in 1995-96.
The Avs look to win the season-opening contest for the fifth-straight season, tied with Philadelphia for the second-longest active win streak behind Tampa (Seven). The last time the club started the season with a loss was in 2015-16 against the Minnesota Wild.
Colorado will start the season at home for the 12th time in the last 15 years.
The Avalanche/Nordiques franchise owns a 28-8-4 (.750) all-time record in home openers. Colorado is 16-5-3 (.729) in home openers since moving from Quebec, which includes a 14-4-2 (.750) mark at Ball Arena… The Avalanche/Nordiques franchise has posted a .663 winning percentage (23-10-7) on opening night, the second-best record in the NHL…Last season, the Avs' .657 points percentage was its third highest since relocating to Denver, trailing only the 2000-01 team (.720) and the 2013-14 squad (.683)…Under Jared Bednar, Colorado is 4-0-0 in season openers, the longest streak of opening night wins ever by an Avalanche head coach (since 1995-96)…The Avalanche sports a 6-2-2 record in their last 10 games at Ball Arena, with a 8-2-4 record in their last 14… Gabriel Landeskog enters his ninth season as team captain. Only four other NHL players have served as captain for their respective clubs for a longer period of time than Landeskog.