NEW YORK ISLANDERS (18-9-4) VS. COLORADO AVALANCHE (15-16-1)
9 P.M. PEPSI CENTER, MSG+2, CHANNEL FINDER, WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM
1. ISLES, AVS PLAYING WELL:
Thursday’s Islanders-Avalanche matchup features two of the hottest teams in the NHL.
The Islanders are 8-1-2 in their last 11 games, stringing together 10 straight games with a point before falling to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. That streak included a 5-3 win over Colorado on Nov. 30.
Since that meeting, the Avalanche have won six of their last eight, moving ahead of the Winnipeg Jets in the Central Division standings. Colorado’s 31 points would be good enough for third place (and a playoff seed) in the Pacific Division, but the Avs have a hill to climb to have a chance at playoffs in the Western Conference. Currently the Avs are five points back of the Nashville Predators, who hold the second Wild Card berth.
2. LAST TIME OUT:
Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas scored a pair of third period goals, turning a 2-2 tie into a 4-2 Islanders lead. The Avalanche made things interesting, pulling their goalie with five minutes to play and scoring, but Ryan Strome’s empty-netter sealed the two points. Thomas Greiss made 25 saves and was sharp as the Avalanche controlled the play early. This is the Islanders’ first trip to Denver since a 5-0 loss on Oct. 30, 2014. They’ve won two straight over the Avalanche since.
3. MATT DUCHENE:
Matt Duchene leads the Avalanche with 16 goals and is tied with Nathan MacKinnon for the team lead in points (28). Duchene is nine goals shy of tying a career high set in 2010-11, and his .50 goals-per-game has him on pace to smash his previous high. The third-overall pick in 2009 – two picks behind John Tavares – has points in six of his last eight games, including the game-winner against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.
4. SEMYON VARLAMOV:
As it happens, the Avalanche’s recent run coincides with lights-out play by Semyon Varlamov. The Avs goalie has won four straight starts, including a 29-save shutout against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night. Varlamov has allowed four goals in his past four games and has a save percentage of .950 or higher in his last six contests. Compare that to Varlamov’s lackluster start (3-6-1) where his save percentage only went above .900 four times. It appears that Varlamov is finding his form and the Avalanche are benefitting because of it.