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Avs and Devils Wrap Up Season Series

by Danielle Bernstein / ColoradoAvalanche.com

The Colorado Avalanche continues its four-game homestand on Thursday, hosting the New Jersey Devils at Pepsi Center. It's the second and final meeting between the two teams, which first met on Feb. 14 in New Jersey where the Devils got the 3-2 win. 

The Avalanche enters Thursday's contest with a 1-1-0 record on the current homestand and 17 games remaining in the 2016-17 season. The Devils are 0-6-2 over their last eight games and will be playing the second contest of a three-game road trip and their third in four nights.

Colorado is 15-12-4 all-time against the Devils, and while the Avs lost the last meeting, they have wins in six of the last seven matchups and points in 10 of the last 11 games of the series. At home, the Avalanche is 9-5-1 overall and has won the last five straight against New Jersey at Pepsi Center.

 

Last Time Out

Backed by a three-point night from Tyson Barrie (one goal, two assists), the Avalanche topped the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 at Pepsi Center on Tuesday night. Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon each pitched in a goal, and Sven Andrighetto recorded his first point in an Avalanche uniform. Colorado finished 1-for-1 on the power play while holding Carolina scoreless on two man-advantage opportunities.

The Devils are coming off a 2-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. New Jersey outshot the Blue Jackets 33-25, but Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky picked up his sixth shutout of the season to keep them off the board. Keith Kinkaid started the second game of New Jersey's back-to-back in net and finished with 23 saves.

 

Last Time They Met

Despite a 37-save performance by Jeremy Smith, the Devils were the 3-2 victors in the first matchup of the 2016-17 campaign. Mark Barberio and Mikhail Grigorenko were the goalscorers for the Avalanche, which finished 1-for-3 on the power play. The Devils had seven different players record points, which included goals from Andy Greene, Pavel Zacha and Kyle Palmieri. 

Video: Keefe and Rycroft preview Thursday's game


What to Watch

Building on Tuesday's Win

The Avalanche rallied from an early 1-0 deficit on Thursday, scoring twice in a 42-second span in the middle frame and once in the third to take the win. It was just the seventh time this season that Colorado won after allowing the first goal of the game, but head coach Jared Bednar liked the way the team responded on Tuesday and hopes it's something they can build on heading into Thursday's matchup.

"We got to go out and play hard like we did yesterday. We got to be positive, bring that energy that we had [Tuesday] on the bench and on the ice, and hopefully [Tuesday's] game gives us a little bit of confidence," Bednar said following Wednesday's practice session at Family Sports Center. "I think one of the major reasons we won [Tuesday] was the way our team pulled together. Instead of dwelling on the negative and getting caught with looking at big picture, the focus was narrow, it was on that night.

"They scored first. We've had trouble rebounding from that recently, but we stuck with it. Going through 40 minutes still at 1-0 for them, our guys were still upbeat and positive, and that's something we'll stress to them, the way we handled that last game, and hopefully we can reproduce that [Thursday]."

Special Teams

Colorado was a perfect 1-for-1 on the power play Tuesday night going up against a team whose penalty kill ranks third in the NHL. They'll have their work cut out for them Thursday as well, as the Devils road penalty kill is tops in the league with an 87.5 percent rate of success. 

New Jersey Against the West

Two of the Devils' three games on their current road trip are against Western Conference teams, as New Jersey travels to Arizona following Thursday's contest. On their last Western Conference roadie, the Devils finished 3-0-1 with wins over Calgary, Vancouver and Minnesota. Overall, the Devils are 10-9-5 against the west this season, including a 5-4-2 record versus the Central Division.

 

Player to Watch

Colorado: Right wing Mikko Rantanen

Rantanen's nine goals since the calendar turned to 2017 are tied with Landeskog for the team lead. He's scored eight of his 14 tallies on the season since Jan. 25, and his 18:05 of average ice time per game ranks first among rookie forwards.

"He's started to find his groove offensively a little bit, a little bit more confidence with the puck. He was playing some good hockey for us even early in the year, especially after missing training camp, maybe a little bit of a slow start. His production has come a long way," Bednar said of Rantanen's development throughout the season. "I think he's a more dangerous guy now from game to game. You can see, you're working through some tough teams and teams that check real well, and he's playing against top lines and top defensive guys all the time that he has to find a way to be physical offensively and find a way to produce in some of those games.

"I think he's doing a real good job of being an impact player on most nights and that's part of his development, being consistent in what he does. But I think he's improved significantly in a lot of areas from the start of the year."

New Jersey: Goaltender Corey Schenider

Schenider's .925 save percentage since Jan. 1 ranks fifth in the NHL among goaltenders who have played 10 or more games. He's 8-4-4 in his career against the Avalanche with a 1.71 goals against average and a .943 save percentage. 

 

Lineup Notes

Colorado has used the same line combinations and defensive pairings in two straight games, but Bednar noted that he and the coaching staff were mulling over some potential changes to Thursday's lineup.

The coach did confirm that Calvin Pickard will make his second consecutive start in net. Pickard has played against New Jersey one other time, a 27-save shutout--the first of his career--on Jan. 14, 2016.

 

The Details

Thursday night's game between the Avalanche and the Devils begins at 7 p.m. MT and can be seen live on Altitude TV. Radio listeners can tune into Altitude Sports Radio AM950 or listen in online at ColoradoAvalanche.com.

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