The Colorado Avalanche will have some new faces in the lineup as it hosts the Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center tonight to open the 2019-20 season.
Rookie Cale Makar will make his regular-season debut after playing in his first NHL game against the Flames in Game 3 of the first-round matchup in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs between Colorado and Calgary.
Fellow defenseman Conor Timmins is set to make his NHL debut following a strong showing in the preseason. It was his first taste of competition after missing the 2018-19 campaign while he recovered from a head injury.
"I got to be honest with you, missing a year and a half, not being able to play, only saw him in one development camp live. Previously, I feel there was no way that he wasn't going to play in the American League until at least Christmas and then get an opportunity to play if things went well," head coach Jared Bednar said of Timmins. "I tried to go into camp and evaluate guys based on what we see. [Executive vice president/general manager] Joe [Sakic] has his thoughts and his staff and then we get together, and it was a unanimous decision that he had made our hockey team.
"He was real good in exhibition. He is a real intelligent player, he's smart with the puck. His first pass is going to the open man. He has the ability to find the middle of the ice, which sets you up for controlled exits. We've just really liked what we've seen from him. I think he's getting better and better. He beats out a couple guys in the backend. Some tough decisions, but I got to be honest with you, that really wasn't one of them."
Andre Burakovsky, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Joonas Donskoi, Nazem Kadri and Valeri Nichushkin will all be playing in their first official games with the Avalanche after the club acquired the forwards in the offseason.
Kadri and Burakovsky are going to skate on a line with third-year forward Tyson Jost, Donskoi will be on a combination with J.T. Compher and Matt Nieto, while Bellemare and Nichushkin are set to be on a trio with Matt Calvert.
The Avs' top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen will also remain intact to begin the campaign.
Bednar did not say what the defensive pairings will look like, but Mark Barberio will likely be Colorado's healthy scratch on the blue line.
Philipp Grubauer is also expected to be between the pipes in his first career NHL opening night start. He will be the eighth different goaltender to start a season opener for the Avs in the 24 seasons since the team relocated from Quebec.
Below is the Avalanche's projected lineup, with the defensive pairings based on the alignment from recent practices. All forward combinations and defensive pairings are subject to change.
92 Gabriel Landeskog - 29 Nathan MacKinnon - 96 Mikko Rantanen
17 Tyson Jost - 91 Nazem Kadri - 95 Andre Burakovsky
83 Matt Nieto - 37 J.T. Compher - 72 Joonas Donskoi
13 Valeri Nichushkin - 41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - 11 Matt Calvert
49 Samuel Girard - 8 Cale Makar
16 Nikita Zadorov - 6 Erik Johnson
27 Ryan Graves - 20 Conor Timmins
31 Philipp Grubauer
39 Pavel Francouz
Healthy Scratches: Mark Barberio, Vladislav Kamenev, Colin Wilson
Injury Report: Ian Cole (hips)