The Colorado Avalanche plays its first game at Pepsi Center in 10 days, hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday evening. It's the first home contest since Feb. 9 for Colorado as it returns from a season-long, five-game road trip.
This is the second game of a back-to-back set for Tampa Bay, its 11th of 16 sets this season. The Lightning are 2-4-4 in the second game of a back-to-back this season.
The Avs are 17-9-4 overall against the Lightning and have won three of the last four meetings, including the first one this season, a 4-0 shutout in Tampa on Oct. 20. As the home team in the all-time series, Colorado is 10-3-2 and has been victorious in six of the last seven. The Avalanche was shutout by the Lightning 4-0 in its last home game against Tampa on Jan. 12, 2016.
Last Time Out
The Avalanche closed out its road trip with a 2-1 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night. Tyson Barrie got the Avalanche on the board first in the opening stanza, and Mikko Rantanen potted the winner in the extra frame, his second game-winning marker of the season, to lift Colorado to victory. The Avs outshot Carolina 37-29, and Calvin Pickard finished with 28 saves.
Tampa Bay led 3-2 heading into the third period but fell 4-3 in overtime to the Dallas Stars on Saturday night at American Airlines Arena. Victor Hedman notched two of the Lightning's three goals, and Tampa went 2-for-2 on the power play while outshooting the Stars 37-28 on the night.
Video: Keefe and Rycroft preview Sunday's game
Last Time They Met
The Avalanche left Tampa with a 4-0 victory back on Oct. 20. Matt Duchene scored two goals and added an assist while Patrick Wiercioch pitched in two helpers and Semyon Varlamov stopped all 27 shots he faced. Andreas Martinsen and Carl Soderberg were the other goalscorers for the Avs, who had nine different players register at least a point on the night. The Lightning outshot Colorado 27-16, including a 12-2 margin in the third period.
What to Watch
Two of the league's top rookies will take the ice on Sunday in Colorado's Mikko Rantanen and Tampa Bay's Brayden Point.
Rantanen's 27 points this season are tied for ninth among rookies and his four power-play goals are tied for fourth among first-year players. The right wing is coming off a game in which he tallied the overtime-winner for Colorado against Carolina on Friday night.
Point's 21 points are tied for 19th among rookies despite having missed 14 games due to an injury. Since his return to the lineup on Jan. 31, he's totaled four goals and two assists in six games and enters Sunday's contest on a three-game point streak (two goals, two assists).
Lightning Power Play
Tampa Bay's power play ranks sixth in the league and is the seventh-best, man-advantage unit on the road with a 21.1 conversion rate. After a bit of a dry spell following the All-Star break in which it only tallied one power-play marker on 16 chances, the Lightning went a perfect 2-for-2 with the man advantage against Dallas on Saturday night. Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin lead the team with seven power-play goals apiece.
Player to Watch
Colorado: Center Nathan MacKinnon
While MacKinnon was held to just one point--an assist against the New York Rangers--during Colorado's five-game roadie, he returns home against a team he's had some success against in his career. MacKinnon has registered 11 points (five goals, six assists) in seven career games against the Lightning, his highest point total against any Eastern Conference team.
Tampa Bay: Defenseman Victor Hedman
The Lightning blueliner ranks sixth in the league in assists and is third among NHL defensemen with 44 points (eight goals, 36 assists). With two goals and an assist in Tampa Bay's game against Dallas on Saturday night, he recorded his 12th multi-point game of the season and 60th of his career. He's also been a big part of the Lightning's power play and is tied for fifth among all NHL skaters with 17 assists on the man advantage.
Sunday's game is a 6 p.m. MT start at Pepsi Center, and tickets are still available. The game can be watched live on Altitude TV, and the radio broadcast is on Altitude Sports Radio AM95 or online at ColoradoAvalanche.com. The contest is the Avalanche's You Can Play Night.