Following back-to-back wins in Florida, the Colorado Avalanche fell 3-1 to the St. Louis Blues on Monday, suffering its first regulation loss of the year. With one game left on a season-long, six-game road trip, the Avs have a chance to finish the trek on a high note at the Vegas Golden Knights.
Monday's loss against the defending Stanley Cup champions still had several positives for Colorado. One of them was Nathan MacKinnon scoring the Avalanche lone goal during a 5-on-3 power play in the first period. He became the fifth player in NHL history and first since Wayne Gretzky in 1985-86 with a season-opening point streak of at least nine games in consecutive seasons. MacKinnon has five goals and seven assists so far in 2019-20 after beginning last year with eight goals and seven assists through nine games.
Mikko Rantanen, who left the Monday's contest in the second period with a lower-body injury, picked up his 12th point with an assist on MacKinnon's marker while defenseman Cale Makar earned his team-leading eighth helper on the play.
The Vegas Golden Knights enter the Friday's outing with a 7-4-0 record after winning 2-1 in a shootout on Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Knights have won five of their last seven outings, ranking second in the Pacific Division standings and third in the Western Conference with 14 points.
Avalanche at Vegas Golden Knights
T-Mobile Arena | Las Vegas, Nev.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare played the last two seasons with the Golden Knights after they selected him in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft… Paul Stastny was drafted by Colorado in 2005 (No. 44 overall). He played his first eight NHL seasons with the Avalanche from 2006-2014 and ranks ninth in franchise history with 458 points (160g/298a)… Nick Holden played three seasons with Colorado from 2013-2016.
The Avalanche is 3-3-0 all-time against the Golden Knights, as each team has won all three games at home in the series… Colorado won two of the three contests last year, including the last two: 3-0 on Feb. 18 and 4-3 on March 27… Nathan MacKinnon and Nazem Kadri have both notched four career points against Vegas, with MacKinnon having one goal and three assists in six meetings while Kadri has three goals and one assist in three career games.
Goaltender Philipp Grubauer will get the start for the Avs in the first half of their back-to-back set… J.T. Compher will begin the game on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, taking the spot that was previously filled by Mikko Rantanen… Valeri Nichushkin will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past four games
Mikko Rantanen (lower body) is week-to-week and will be reevaluated next Tuesday or Wednesday.
SCOUTING THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 32 of 33 shots against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, fending off four power-play chances to help the Knights earn their seventh win on the year. Vegas, which reached the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season in 2017-18, finished 43-32-7 last year and lost in seven games to the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the playoffs.
The Knights own the NHL's most successful penalty kill, surviving 44 of 48 short-handed situations this year (90.9 percent). They also have a league-high four short-handed goals and their 313 hits are second in the NHL (Pittsburgh, 340). Offensively, Mark Stone leads the team with 14 points (six goals, eight assists), which is tied for fifth most in the league. With six points on the power play this season (three goals, three assists), Stone also leads a Vegas unit that's converted on 25 percent of its man-advantage opportunities (10 of 40), tied for the ninth-best overall.
(OPPOSING) PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Stastny
Paul Stastny, a former member of the Avalanche, has notched all eight of his points this year in the last seven games (four goals, four assists). He's also played well against his old team as of late.
In three games last season against Colorado, Stastny totaled four points, recording a goal and an assist in both the Dec. 27 and March 27 contests.
Colorado is averaging four goals per game, ranking second in the league behind Nashville (4.22).
In five games since returning from an injury, Ian Cole has been on the ice for 11 Avalanche goals for and just one against for a plus-10 rating, the second best in the NHL behind Nashville's Mattias Ekholm (plus-11).
With 36 goals for and 24 goals against, the Avs' goal differential of 12 the best in the NHL.
Monday's game is the first half of a back-to-back set, the second of 12 such instances that Colorado will play this season. The Avs, who will host the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, won both outings in their first consecutive-night set this year… The early start is part of Vegas' "Nevada Day" celebration… It is the first of six afternoon games the Avs will play this season… The Avalanche has killed 19 of its last 20 penalties and went on a six-game streak without allowing a power-play goal from Oct. 10-19… Colorado has surrendered a league-low four goals in the third period this season (tied with the Carolina)… The Avalanche is one of just two teams (Winnipeg) with three players (Ryan Graves, Nikita Zadorov and Erik Johnson) who have recorded at least three hits on the penalty kill… Colorado has registered four or more goals in six of its nine games and five or more tallies on four occasions.