The Colorado Avalanche wraps up a back-to-back set on Thursday night at Bell Centre against the Montreal Canadiens.
Nathan MacKinnon picked up his fourth-straight multi-point outing with a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday to help the Avalanche enter the contest in Quebec on a four-game winning streak.
Valeri Nichushkin scored a short-handed goal in the third period, his fifth point in seven games, and Joonas Donskoi sealed the victory against Toronto with an empty-netter in the final minutes, his 12th goal of the year. Philipp Grubauer denied 38-of-39 shots on goal to post a season-high .974 save percentage.
The Canadiens snapped an eight-game losing skid on Tuesday, beating the New York Islanders 4-2 at home. Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher and Shea Weber all recorded two-point games, each chipping in with a goal and an assist to help Montreal right the ship.
Avalanche at Montreal Canadiens
Bell Centre | Montreal, Quebec
Mark Barberio, who was born in Montreal, played for the Canadiens for parts of two seasons from 2015-2017... Samuel Girard is from Roberval, Quebec… Colin Wilson's grandfather, Jerry Wilson, played three games for the Canadiens in 1956-57... Colorado's Ryan Graves (Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Val d'Or, Quebec) and Nathan MacKinnon (Halifax) played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before turning pro.
The Avalanche split its two-game set with the Canadiens last year, winning the first contest 2-1 in Denver on Dec. 19 before losing 3-0 in Montreal on Jan. 12. In the first game, Mikko Rantanen scored to tie the game at one in the second period and then Gabriel Landeskog netted the lone goal in the third period after fielding passes from Rantanen and MacKinnon, both of whom turned in two-point games.
The Colorado/Quebec Nordiques franchise is 58-72-15 in the all-time series with the Canadiens, but the Avalanche is 19-10-3 against the Habs since moving to Denver in 1995. The Avs are 12-9-1 in the inter-conference matchup since the turn of the century.
The teams close their two-game season series on March 21 at Pepsi Center.
Goaltender Pavel Francouz is expected to start in net for the second game of the back-to-back set.
Andre Burakovsky (upper body) and Gabriel Landeskog (lower body) practiced with the team at Wednesday's morning skate and both could return to game action on Thursday at Montreal… Vladislav Kamenev missed the game in Toronto with an illness… Erik Johnson (lower body) is not traveling with the team… Colin Wilson (lower body) is scheduled to have surgery and is out indefinitely.
SCOUTING THE CANADIENS
Montreal (12-10-6) snapped an eight-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders. From Nov. 16 (the start of the skid) to now, Montreal has converted 14.3 percent of power-play opportunities while holding off opponents 77.8 percent of the time on the man disadvantage. During this span the Canadiens have attempted the most shots of any team, with 341.
Before Nov. 16, Montreal was capitalizing on 20.3 percent of its power-play chances but continued to struggle on the other end, stopping 72.4 percent on the penalty kill. Overall this season, games with the Canadiens tend to be high scoring; they've scored 91 goals (eight-most) and allowed 97 (fourth-most).
(OPPOSING) PLAYER TO WATCH: Shea Weber
Shea Weber has 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) this year, tied for the fifth-most among NHL defensemen. A two-way blueliner, he's also taken 85 shots, fourth-most at his position.
Weber, who has six points in his last six games (three goals, three assists), has 12 career points against Colorado (4g, 8a), though none in four games as a member of the Canadiens.
With a goal and an assist in Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Leafs, Nathan MacKinnon now has 13 multi-point games this year.
Ryan Graves has a plus-minus margin of plus-17, tied for the fifth-highest in the NHL and the second-highest among defensemen
The Avalanche has scored 100 goals this season, third-most in the NHL.
The Avalanche will complete its fifth of 12 back-to-backs this year on Thursday in Montreal; the team is 2-2-0 in the second half of these sets so far… Colorado can match its longest win streak of the season (five games) with a victory against the Canadiens after starting the year 5-0-0… The Avs are averaging 3.70 goals per game, the highest rate in the NHL.