Goaltender Pavel Francouz will make his first NHL start this evening when the Colorado Avalanche hosts the Arizona Coyotes at Pepsi Center.
Francouz played in two games last season with the Avalanche, both in relief appearances. He made 21-of-22 saves in his NHL debut on Dec. 22 at Arizona and stopped 12-of-13 shots on Jan. 2 against the San Jose Sharks.
The Plzen, Czech Republic, native is in his second season with the Colorado organization after signing as a free agent on May 2, 2018. He spent the majority of last year--his first in North America--with the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League and became one of the best goalies in that league.
He was named to the AHL All-Star Classic and finished the campaign with a 27-17-3 record, 2.68 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and three shutouts in 49 games. Francouz's 1,403 saves led the league, and he finished tied for third in wins and tied for fifth in save percentage.
"If [an AHL goaltender] can be a rock solid starter down there, that is not only winning some hockey games but stealing some games as well, like Frankie did last year, then I think they're ready for a shot," said head coach Jared Bednar. "This is his shot, and he's going to get it here with us. He's earned that position because of his recent past."
Francouz appeared in two preseason contests with the Avs before the 2019-20 campaign, Sept. 21 at the Minnesota Wild and Sept. 25 at the Vegas Golden Knights. In the outing versus the Golden Knights, he stopped 16 of the 17 shots he faced and the only puck that got past him came with 18 seconds left to play.
"If you catch him in some of those games, the last exhibition game in Las Vegas, he was outstanding," Bednar said. "It's a tough building to go in and play. We had a younger lineup, they had a little bit of a mix of their older, veteran guys. He did a great job. We gave up some good scoring chances in that game, which gives us confidence putting him in the net here today."
Philipp Grubauer started each of the Avs' first three games of the season and sports a 3-0-0 record, 2.33 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
Other than in goal, Bednar said he's not going to make any other changes to his lineup, meaning J.T. Compher will miss his second straight game with a lower-body injury.
Below is the Avalanche's projected lineup for tonight's game against the Coyotes. All forward combinations and defensive pairings are subject to change.
92 Gabriel Landeskog - 29 Nathan MacKinnon - 96 Mikko Rantanen
72 Joonas Donskoi- 91 Nazem Kadri - 95 Andre Burakovsky
83 Matt Nieto - 17 Tyson Jost - 22 Colin Wilson
13 Valeri Nichushkin - 41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - 11 Matt Calvert
49 Samuel Girard - 6 Erik Johnson
16 Nikita Zadorov - 8 Cale Makar
27 Ryan Graves - 44 Mark Barberio
39 Pavel Francouz (starter)
31 Philipp Grubauer (backup)
Healthy Scratches: Kevin Connauton, Vladislav Kamenev
Injury Report: Ian Cole (hips), J.T. Compher (lower body)