The Colorado Avalanche wraps up its final five-game road trip of the season when visiting the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday in a clash of the top two teams in the West Division. Colorado is coming off a back-to-back sweep over the Los Angeles Kings, winning by scores of 3-2 on both Friday and Saturday.
Devon Toews scored twice for his first multi-goal game of his career and fellow defenseman Cale Makar recorded a goal and an assist in the Avs' most recent contest. Andre Burakovsky extended his season-best point streak to five games with two helpers, his second consecutive multi-point outing. Goaltender Jonas Johansson made 16 saves for his fourth victory since joining the Avs in March.
Vegas (39-13-2) earned a 4-1 win against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday to also complete a back-to-back sweep. Reilly Smith registered his first career hat trick and Chandler Stephenson also tallied to lengthen his season-long point streak to five contests. Alex Pietrangelo added two assists on the night and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 20-of-21 shots he faced.
Monday's matchup is the final meeting between the Avalanche and Golden Knights this season. Colorado wraps up its campaign with a back-to-back set at home against the Kings on Wednesday and Thursday, while Vegas visits the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday in its season finale.
Avalanche at Golden Knights
T-Mobile Arena | Las Vegas, Nev.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare played two seasons with Vegas after the team selected him in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft… Golden Knights defenseman Nick Holden played three seasons with Colorado from 2013-2016.
Colorado holds a 3-3-1 mark against Vegas on the season and is 1-2-0 at T-Mobile Arena, while going 8-6-1 in the all-time series. The Avs fell 5-2 in the last meeting on April 28, which was the club's second-straight loss to the Golden Knights. Overall this year, the Avalanche has produced 2.14 goals per game when facing the Knights, while giving up 2.43 tallies against.
Nathan MacKinnon has 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in 15 games versus Vegas, the most in franchise history against the club, while J.T. Compher's seven points (two goals, five assists) in 14 matchups rank second in the series. Philipp Grubauer owns a 5-3-1 record against the Golden Knights in an Avalanche sweater, leading the franchise in wins, save percentage (.933) and goals-against average (2.01).
Jayson Megna was inserted into the lineup on Saturday as Carl Soderberg was held out for precautionary reasons after having some "low-back tightness," but Soderberg could possibly suit up on Monday. Nathan MacKinnon (lower body) will be a game-day decision, according to head coach Jared Bednar, and netminder Philipp Grubauer is expected to start in net.
Nathan MacKinnon has missed two consecutive matchups due to a minor lower-body injury, but he could return to the lineup on Monday. Samuel Girard (lower body) and Brandon Saad (lower body) could possibly suit up prior to the end of the regular season, as the two are participating in off-ice workouts in Denver. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk has been in COVID-19 protocol since May 3, while rookie D-man Bowen Byram (upper body) is out week-to-week. Both Matt Calvert (upper body) and Logan O'Connor (lower body) are out long term, with O'Connor recently having surgery. Erik Johnson (upper body) could possibly return later in the playoffs, while goaltender Pavel Francouz (lower body) is out for the remainder of the campaign.
SCOUTING THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Vegas holds the top spot in the West Division with 80 points (39-13-2), four more than the second-place Avalanche, which has a game in hand. Through 54 contests, forwards Mark Stone (21 goals, 39 assists) and Max Pacioretty (24 goals, 27 assists) have been the main producers on the offensive end. As a team, the third period has been its strongest, tallying 67 markers in the frame, which is tied for the most in the NHL this year. When entering the third with a lead, the squad is 26-2-0, tied for the second-most wins behind Colorado (29) when going into the final period in front.
At T-Mobile Arena, Vegas boasts a 21-4-2 mark on the year and has won a season-long seven consecutive matchups. To go along with the Knights' home winning streak, the squad has won 14 of its last 16 games overall, including three straight after sweeping the St. Louis Blues on Friday and Saturday.
(OPPOSING) PLAYER TO WATCH: Reilly Smith
Forward Reilly Smith scored three times on Saturday against St. Louis to record his first career hat trick and extend his goal streak to a season-best three games. He also has points in five straight contests (five goals, two assists), also a season long and his best stretch of the campaign.
Since being picked up by Vegas in a trade with the Florida Panthers during the 2017 expansion draft, Smith has recorded 190 points (82 goals, 108 assists) in 263 outings with the club. The right wing has 14 goals and nine assists in 51 games this season and has one assist in the previous seven matchups against Colorado in 2020-21.
Cale Makar has averaged 1.05 points per game this campaign, the only defenseman in the league to average over a point per contest. He has 43 points (eight goals, 35 assists) in 41 outings and owns the sixth-most points overall by a defenseman in the NHL, but he's only four points behind the league leader and has done so in 14 fewer games.
All three of the Avs' goals on Saturday came from defensemen, the most the club has had from its blue line in a game this season. Colorado has received 139 points (26 goals, 113 assists) from rear guards in 2020-21, the most of any time.
Both of Colorado's special-team units rank in the top 10 in the NHL, being just one of four teams to accomplish the feat thus far (also Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals). The Avs' power play slots in at seventh (23.1 percent) and their penalty kill is the eighth-best in the league (82.4 percent).
The Avalanche's most-direct path to earning the top spot in the West Division and possibly the Presidents' Trophy is to win its remaining three games of the season… Monday's matchup is the final road contest for the Avalanche this season. The squad sports a 16-9-2 mark on the road this year and a 6-4-0 record over its last 10 away from home… Mikko Rantanen has notched at least a point in 11 of his last 12 contests, compiling nine goals and nine assists in that span. His 30 goals this season are tied for the fourth-most in the NHL… J.T. Compher is one goal away from his 50th in his career… Nathan MacKinnon has collected 36 points (nine goals, 27 assists) on the road this season, which is the third-most points away from home in the league… The Avs have held their opponents to 20 or fewer shots in 13 matchups this season, the most in the NHL. Colorado owns a 9-4-0 mark in such games.