ST. LOUIS--The top two teams in the Western Conference square off tonight when the Colorado Avalanche visits the St. Louis Blues, and the Avs are excited about the challenge.
Through 32 games this year, the Avalanche owns a 21-8-3 record and 45 points. The Blues have a 20-8-6 mark and 46 points after 34 contests.
"It is going to be a tough test here, obviously it is for first in the Central and the West," said Avs forward Matt Calvert. "We are excited about it. This is a team that we are going to have to get by in the playoffs, and we got to start finding some success against these guys. They check hard, they play hard, they are a big, physical team, so we got to really use our speed tonight and make things happen offensively."
Colorado is riding a nine-game point streak, a season high and the longest active in the NHL, going 8-0-1 during that span with its lone loss coming in overtime to the Calgary Flames last Monday. The Avs also had an eight-game streak earlier this year (7-0-1), which ended at St. Louis on Oct. 21. Colorado is one of two teams to record two different eight-game point streaks in 2019-20 (also the Boston Bruins).
Video: Matt Calvert discusses the St. Louis Blues
The Avalanche is coming off a 3-1 win versus the New Jersey Devils at Pepsi Center on Friday to wrap up a three-game homestand with a 2-0-1 record. It was Colorado's 10th home win of the season, making it the first NHL team with 10 wins both at home and on the road in 2019-20. St. Louis and the Carolina Hurricanes joined the Avs the next day.
While the Avs have been finding ways to win, the team will have to play a full game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues.
"We are at a point where we can't judge our games by results. Obviously, we won a lot of hockey in the last nine games here, but we got to look at our overall game," said Calvert. "That is something when you play a good team you can get exposed if you are not showing up for a full 60 like we haven't in the last three games. You are going to get exposed by a team like this, so it is going to be a good test for us.
"I think the biggest thing is we believe in here. We believe we can beat any team in the league, and it is just another chance to prove that tonight."
Colorado has won a season-best four straight contests on the road, most recently a 4-1 win at the Bruins on Dec. 7. The Avalanche held Boston to 20 shots on goal and handed the 2019 Eastern Conference champions their first regulation home loss of the campaign.
"I think it is kind of like our game against Boston in Boston. A team that is in the top of the league, one of the best in the league, and we are right up there as well," Avs forward Matt Nieto said after Colorado's morning skate at Enterprise Center. "It is a statement game for sure, especially against these guys. We see them a lot and we could run into them in the playoffs, so huge game."
This is the second of five meetings between the Avalanche and Blues this season and the final matchup in St. Louis. The Blues will make three visits to Denver, with the first coming on Jan. 2. St. Louis and Minnesota are the only Central Division opponents to meet the Avs five times this year.
Video: Jared Bednar before the Avs take on the Blues
With their two-game road trip featuring visits in Central Division cities, the Avs start a stretch that sees them play seven of the next nine games against divisional opponents.
"They are basically every game is a four-point swing against division teams," said Matt Nieto. "It is a way to really distance yourself from the rest of the pack. These are games that we really need to bear down for.
"We are excited for this stretch. I know we got St. Louis and Chicago coming up, so again, we just have to make sure that we are playing hard and playing a full 60 minutes."
In its next nine outings, Colorado will have two meetings with the Blues (Dec. 16, Jan. 2) and Blackhawks (Dec. 18, Dec. 21) and an outing each against the Minnesota Wild (Dec. 27), Dallas Stars (Dec. 28) and Winnipeg Jets (Dec. 31). The only club in the Central that the Avalanche won't face during this period is the Nashville Predators.
Colorado is leading all NHL teams in goals per game (3.66) and goal differential (plus-31). The Avalanche is second in goals scored (117) behind only Washington (122), who has played two more games.
The Avs are 10-3-2 at home and 11-5-1 on the road. Colorado's 11 road wins are tied for second among all teams behind only Washington (15).
The Avalanche is 13-3-1 in its last 17 games, the best record in the league since Nov. 7.
The Los Angeles Kings played their first shootout of the season on Saturday, which now leaves Colorado as the only NHL team who has yet to have a game decided in a shootout in 2019-20.
Valeri Nichushkin has a four-game point streak (three goals, one assist), the longest of his NHL career. He has three goals in his last four games and six tallies in his last 10 contests.
Joonas Donskoi needs one goal to tie his career high. He recorded 14 markers in both 2017-18 and 2018-19 with the San Jose Sharks.