The Colorado Avalanche (6-5-0) returns to action Thursday night to take on the Carolina Hurricanes (4-4-2) at Pepsi Center after four days without a game. This is the clubs' first of two meetings of the 2017-18 campaign.
The Avs are 18-6-3-3 all-time against the Hurricanes (since 1995-96) and have won each of the last two meetings. Colorado has an 11-1-2-1 record at home against Carolina and has only lost one game at the Pepsi Center this season. Carolina has won three road games this campaign but has only won once at home.
Carolina is coming off a two-game slide after falling twice in Raleigh over the past week. The Avalanche hopes to keep its winning record going before departing on a 10-day trip that includes games against the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders and two outings in Stockholm, Sweden versus the Ottawa Senators as part of the NHL Global Series.
Last Time Out
The Avalanche hosted the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday and took the lead early with a three-goal opening frame. Mikko Rantanen was the first to put the Avalanche on the scoreboard, which was followed by a power-play marker from Nathan MacKinnon. Rantanen capitalized on another 5-on-4 advantage for the Avs and found the back of the net again to put the squad ahead 3-0 going into the first intermission.
MacKinnon put up his second tally of the night 2:56 into the second stanza, and Sven Andrighetto found the back of the net shortly after to give Colorado a five-goal lead. The Avalanche conceded two goals before the final 20 minutes, when Rocco Grimaldi tipped in a shot from Erik Johnson for his first NHL tally of year and with the Avalanche. Jonathan Bernier made 39 saves as Colorado won 6-3.
The Hurricanes suffered a loss at home to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. Carolina put 37 shots on goal but came up short in a shootout to yield a final score of 4-3. The Ducks took an early two-goal lead until Jeff Skinner to cut the advantage in half with seconds left in the first frame for the Canes. Tallies from Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk in the second stanza put the Hurricanes ahead for the first time in the contest, but Anaheim tied it up in the final 20 minutes to send the game into overtime. Scoreless extra minutes resulted in a shootout, where Carolina fell short for the loss.
Last Time They Met
The Avalanche snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-1 win at home in the clubs' last meeting on March 7. Down by one after the opening stanza, Gabriel Landeskog tallied a power-play marker to tie the match at 1-1. Tyson Barrie snagged the go-ahead goal for the Avs with less than a minute left in the second frame. Colorado secured the win with an empty-net tally from MacKinnon after shutting Carolina out for the final 40 minutes. Barrie finished with three points, tallying one goal and two assists.
What to Watch
Advantage of the Familiar
The Avalanche has only lost once at home this campaign. When playing with Pepsi Center fans at their backs, the Avs have produced not only better outcomes, but better numbers as well.
Colorado has only allowed the puck in the back of its net 14 times while in the Mile High City versus the 20 its allowed on the road. Colorado has also tallied twice as many goals when at home (23) compared to when playing as the visitor (11).
The Avs improved to 15-for-16 on the penalty kill at home, the fifth-best home penalty kill in the NHL, after holding the Blackhawks scoreless on five power-plays on Saturday.
Consistency Is Key
Going from losing by a touchdown worth of tallies in Las Vegas to a big six-goal performance over their Chicago rivals in all of two days caused whip lash for many over the Avs' performances.
As the young team continues to develop their identity, lack of consistency has been the difference. It is what head coach Jerad Bednar says has caused the squad to fall short in its five defeats this season.
"The games we lost, we didn't deserve to win," says Bednar. "We didn't play to that identity, we were inconsistent period-to-period or took periods off or got away from our game."
Player to Watch
Colorado: Center Alexander Kerfoot
As one of the many young faces hitting the ice for the Avs this season, Alexander Kerfoot has made his presence known with six points (three goals, three assists) in 11 games played. Early in the season, the rookie was paired with Matt Duchene and Nail Yakupov on one of Colorado's strongest offensive lines but is now centering his own trio.
"I've liked what he's done. He finds ways to get on the score sheet and make a play or two a night that helps you get some goals," said Bednar. "He's a competitive guy and he's strong with the puck. He does a lot of good things out there. I think it leads back to his hockey IQ; he's a really smart player."
Carolina: Left Wing Jeff Skinner
Currently leading the Hurricanes in scoring with seven goals and two assists, Jeff Skinner has tallied a point in all but three games this season. In 10 games played, Skinner also leads Carolina in goals and shots. The forward has tallied three power-play points this campaign, including two goals and an assist.
Semyon Varlamov will make his eighth start between the posts for the Avalanche this year.
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. MT at Pepsi Center. The game will be televised on Altitude TV and the radio broadcast can be heard on Altitude Sports Radio AM 950 or online at ColoradoAvalanche.com.
Thursday's contest is designated as the Avalanche's annual Hockey Fights Cancer game, presented by UCHealth. The club will wear lavender jerseys and other equipment during warmup, and the evening will feature other elements to the show the organizations support in the fight against cancer. Tickets for the game are still available.