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Avalanche Begins Road Trip at Tampa Thursday

Colorado will play its next four games on the road

by Danielle Bernstein / ColoradoAvalanche.com

The Colorado Avalanche heads east for a four-game road trip beginning with the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night. It's the first of two matchups between the teams this season, both of which will take place this month, as the Lightning travels to Denver in just over a week for round two at Pepsi Center.

The Avs were 1-0-1 against the Bolts last season, including a 4-0 win on the road. Colorado is 17-9-5 in 31 all-time contests against Tampa Bay and 7-6-2 on the road.

Last Time Out

Colorado Avalanche

Colorado is coming off a 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at Pepsi Center. Nathan MacKinnon scored both of Colorado's goals to take over the team lead in scoring. Both tallies came on the power play, as the Avs finished 2-for-5 with the man advantage. Mikko Rantanen notched his 12th power-play point of the season, and Alexander Kerfoot registered two assists.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning also last played on Tuesday, topping the New York Islanders 6-2. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves for his NHL-leading 18th win, and Yanni Gourde scored two goals in a 1:34 span of the second period to lead the Lightning. Tampa outshot the Islanders 34-31 and finished 2-for-4 on the power play.

Last Time They Met

The Lightning won the last matchup 3-2 in overtime on Feb. 19 at Pepsi Center. The Avalanche rallied from a 2-0 deficit, scoring two goals in the third period to force the extra frame. Jonathan Drouin scored midway through the overtime period to lift the Lightning to a win.

What to Watch

Avs Begin Tough Road Swing

After going 1-4 on a five-game homestand, the Avalanche looks to get back on track as it begins a four-game road swing against some of the Eastern Conference's best teams. It begins with Tampa, whose 40 points lead the NHL. Colorado will also face the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals, who sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division, on the trip.

"Take it game-by-game. Obviously, we are playing four really good teams," center Nathan MacKinnon said after Tuesday's loss. "It's not going to be easy."

Rookie Rising

With two assists on Tuesday, Alexander Kerfoot moved into a tie for fourth among league rookies with 20 points. His 10 power-play points are tied for second among first-year players and his shooting percentage (28.6%) ranks first among rookies who have taken more than 10 shots. Defenseman Samuel Girard ranks second among first-year players in time on ice per game, averaging 19:35.

Home Ice Advantage

Thursday's game is the third of a four-game homestand for the Lightning, which has been one of the league's best home teams so far this season. Tampa has collected 23 of its 40 points at Amalie Arena, the second-most home points in the NHL. The Bolts have won the first two matchups of the homestand.

Player to Watch

Colorado: Left Wing Gabriel Landeskog

The Avalanche captain returns to the lineup after serving a four-game suspension for a cross check to the Calgary Flames' Matthew Tkachuck on Nov. 25. Landeskog ranks second on the team with nine goals, which was a team high at the time of his suspension. Colorado has gone 1-3-0 in his absence.

"It's a big win for us for sure to get Gabe back. He's a great player and a great leader, so of course you need your captain if you want to play good," said winger Mikko Rantanen following the team's 2-1 loss to Buffalo Tuesday night. "But, we can't hide with that. He [missed] four games. If he's missing, we need other guys to step up but it's a good thing we have him back."

Tampa Bay: Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy

Vasilevskiy paces the NHL with 18 wins and has allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his last 10 starts and 15 of his 23 starts this season. He's only played in one career game against the Avs, a 5-4 loss on Feb. 22, 2015.

The Details

Thursday's contest between the Avalanche and the Lightning is slated for 5:30 p.m. MT and can be watched live on Altitude TV. The radio broadcast can be heard on Altitude Sports Radio AM 950 or online at ColoradoAvalanche.com.

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