In a game with major playoff implications, the Colorado Avalanche will once again be without one of the squad's veteran forwards.
Carl Soderberg is still under the weather and will miss his second consecutive game tonight when the Avs host the Los Angeles Kings at Pepsi Center.
The Avalanche (40-25-8, 88 points) has a one-point edge and one game in hand on L.A. (40-27-7, 87 points) for the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Avs are 8-1-3 in their last 12 games and 15-2-1 in their past 18 home contests.
Colorado is coming off a 5-1 win on Tuesday at the Chicago Blackhawks, the first outing that Soderberg had missed since the NHL Global Series games against the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 10-11 in Stockholm. The Malmo, Sweden, native missed the two outings in his home country while awaiting the birth of his family's third child. Tonight will be the fifth game that Soderberg has missed this year.
Soderberg has had a resurgence season while leading one of Colorado's most consistent forward combinations and is relied on to take key faceoffs, especially in the defensive zone. In 69 games, he has produced 15 goals and 19 assists and has taken the second-most draws (847) on the team behind Nathan MacKinnon (1030).
"He is a big-body guy who defends real hard," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar of Soderberg. "He's been chipping in offensively with his line, so we have relied on that line in a lot of different situations and D-zone starts. It's going to be a little bit different here tonight with him out of the lineup again."
Rookie Vladislav Kamenev will play in the center position on Soderberg's old line with wings Blake Comeau and Matt Nieto after he had the last game off to rest. Fellow first-year forward Dominic Toninato was the center of that line against the Blackhawks, but he will be scratched for this evening's contest.
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov will get the start for Colorado, marking the 19th straight contest that he's played in. Varlamov has taken the ice in every outing since Feb. 14, producing a 9-3-4 record in those 18 games.
Like the team, Varlamov is coming off another strong performance after making 44 saves against Chicago. In his last 11 contests, the netminder has a 7-1-3 record, 1.96 goals-against average and .944 save percentage.
There will be a new backup goalie tonight for Colorado, as Jonathan Bernier has been cleared for action. Bernier missed the last five games after suffering a head injury on March 10 versus the Arizona Coyotes.
"It's a really tough injury because you just don't know. Some days you feel great, some days you don't," said Bernier on Thursday. "Your everyday life stuff, you feel pretty good and then you start exercising and that's when you kind of have that step back, but that's part of hockey. Obviously, you don't want to see guys going down like this, but you just got to be patient and wait it out."
The Avs will also make a change on the backend with Duncan Siemens returning to the lineup. He will be paired on defense with fellow rookie Samuel Girard.
Along with Toninato, the Avalanche's healthy scratches include forward Nail Yakupov and defensemen Mark Alt, Anton Lindholm and David Warsofsky.
Below is the Avalanche's expected lineup. All line combinations and defensive pairings are subject to change.
92 Gabriel Landeskog - 29 Nathan MacKinnon - 96 Mikko Rantanen
17 Tyson Jost - 37 J.T. Compher - 10 Sven Andrighetto
83 Matt Nieto - 91 Vladislav Kamenev - 14 Blake Comeau
57 Gabriel Bourque - 13 Alexander Kerfoot - 22 Colin Wilson
12 Patrik Nemeth - 6 Erik Johnson
16 Nikita Zadorov - 4 Tyson Barrie
15 Duncan Siemens - 49 Samuel Girard
1 Semyon Varlamov (Starter)
45 Jonathan Bernier (Backup)
Healthy Scratches: Mark Alt, Anton Lindholm, Spencer Martin, Duncan Siemens, Dominic Toninato, Nail Yakupov
Injury Report: Mark Barberio (upper body), Andrew Hammond (head)
Video: Previewing Avalanche vs. Kings