After concluding its final five-game road trip of the campaign on Monday, the Colorado Avalanche returns home to face the Los Angeles Kings in a back-to-back set beginning on Wednesday to close out the regular season.
The Avs (37-13-4) kept their aspirations for the top spot in the West Division alive with a 2-1 victory against the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday. Philipp Grubauer put together a dominant 36-save performance, while J.T. Compher notched the game-winning goal with 8:27 remaining in the third period. Rookie Alex Newhook registered his first career multi-point game with two assists, and Andre Burakovsky tallied to extend his season-best point streak to six games.
Los Angeles (21-26-7) fell 2-1 in overtime to the St. Louis Blues on Monday, dropping its third consecutive matchup. Alex Iafallo notched the lone goal for the squad as Gabriel Vilardi and Olli Maatta each assisted on the marker. Vilardi found the scoresheet for the fourth straight game, while netminder Calvin Petersen stopped 17 shots on the night.
Wednesday's meeting is game No. 55-of-56 in the regular season for both the Avalanche and Kings, with the clubs squaring off in the season finale on Thursday.
Avalanche vs. Los Angeles Kings
Ball Arena | Denver, Colo.
COLORADO-LOS ANGELES CONNECTIONS
Avalanche assistant coach Ray Bennett spent seven years as an assistant coach for the Kings (1999-2006)… Kings general manager Rob Blake played parts of five seasons with Colorado, winning a Stanley Cup with the Avs in 2001… Los Angeles forward Brendan Lemieux was born in Denver and is the son of former Avalanche player Claude Lemieux, who played for the team from 1995-1999… Kings center Trevor Moore played at the University of Denver from 2013-2016… L.A. defenseman Christian Wolanin is the son of Craig Wolanin, who was on the Avs' Stanley Cup team in 1996.
Colorado and Los Angeles will meet on Wednesday for the third time in less than a week, as the Avs swept the Kings in a back-to-back set on Friday and Saturday in L.A. The Avalanche earned 3-2 victories in both of the consecutive-day contests, with Cale Makar (two goals, two assists), Andre Burakovsky (four assists) and Devon Toews (two goals, one assist) combining for 11 points in the matchups.
Through six games between the clubs this campaign, Colorado has won four straight matchups and sports a 5-1-0 mark, including a 2-0-0 record in the first contest of back-to-back sets. The squad is undefeated (2-0-0) when hosting the Kings this year and holds a 5-4-1 record in the last 10 meetings at Ball Arena. All time, the Avs are 62-66-15 when facing off against L.A. and 35-29-5 on home ice.
Nathan MacKinnon returned to the lineup on Monday after missing two games with a lower-body injury. Carl Soderberg also suited up after sitting out one contest to get more rest, while Kiefer Sherwood and Jayson Megna were healthy scratches. Goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Jonas Johansson are expected to split the games in the back-to-back set.
Samuel Girard (lower body) and Brandon Saad (lower body) have both been skating in Denver, as Girard is likely to return first while Saad is still progressing, according to head coach Jared Bednar. Defenseman Bowen Byram has been on the ice some days with Girard and Saad, but he is still out with an upper-body injury. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk has been in COVID-19 protocol since May 3, while 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. Goaltender Pavel Francouz (lower body) is out for the remainder of the campaign.
SCOUTING THE KINGS
Los Angeles holds a 21-26-7 mark after falling in each contest (0-2-1) of its final three-game homestand of the campaign that ended on Monday versus the St. Louis Blues. The club was officially eliminated from playoff contention for the third straight season after losing to the Avs on Friday and sits in sixth place in the West Division (49 points).
On the road, the Kings own a 12-12-2 record while going 5-5-0 over their last 10 away from Staples Center. L.A. boasts the league's top road penalty-kill unit this year, killing 87.7 percent of its penalties. When visiting Colorado, the team's man-down unit is a perfect 3-for-3 in two matchups.
(OPPOSING) PLAYER TO WATCH: GABRIEL VILARDI
Rookie forward Gabriel Vilardi has been a bright spot for the Kings roster this season as he has registered at least a point in four consecutive contests and has 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) in 52 games in the campaign. The 2017 first-round pick (11th overall) has notched three markers and two helpers over his career-best stretch, with a goal and an assist versus the Avs along the way.
Overall, Vilardi has tallied 13 goals and 17 assists in 62 career contests after playing in 10 matchups in the second half of the 2019-20 seasons. He has recorded two goals and two assists in eight all-time meetings with Colorado, including three points (two goals, one assist) in six games this season, tied for the third most on the roster.
Colorado is currently on the second-longest home point streak in franchise history (tied), earning at least a point in 15 straight games at Ball Arena (14-0-1). The club has won seven consecutive matchups in Denver and 14 of the last 15. The 15-game point streak is two shy of the franchise record of 17 straight that was set at the end of 2002-03 campaign.
Philipp Grubauer's 29 wins this campaign are the most by an Avalanche netminder since Semyon Varlamov's 41 victories in 2013-14 set a franchise record. Grubauer has won five of his last six starts and nine of 11 dating back to March 29.
Cale Makar is expected to suit up for his 100th NHL game on Wednesday. The 2019-20 Calder Trophy winner as the league's best rookie has registered 20 goals and 73 assists through his first 99 games, including 43 points (eight goals, 35 assists) in 42 outings this season. As well, Andre Burakovsky notched his 100th career goal on Monday, doing so in 437 contests. The forward has tallied 18 markers this year, ranking fourth on the club.
The Avalanche sports a 20-4-2 mark at home this season for an .808 points percentage, the second highest in the NHL… J.T. Compher tallied his 50th NHL goal on Monday and seventh marker of the season. Compher has notched 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 46 games this year… The Avs are 5-1-0 against the Kings this season, with their five wins being the most ever against Los Angeles in a single season (previously 4-0-0 in 2011-12)… Colorado's power play at home ranks fifth in the league (25.3) and its penalty kill is the fourth best (87.2) on home ice, being just one of three teams to have both special-team units in the top five of both categories at home (also Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders)… The Avalanche boasts an 8-1-0 mark in the first half of back-to-backs this season to go along with the Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins as the only teams in the league to have one loss in such games… Devon Toews has averaged 24:47 of ice time this season, leading the Avs and ranking 10th in the league.