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Game 7 Preview: Colorado Avalanche @ Pittsburgh Penguins 10/16/2019: lines, how to watch

It’s a hockey night in Pittsburgh! Come check out what you need to know about Nathan MacKinnon and the visiting Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Who: Colorado Avalanche (5-0-0) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (4-2-0)

When: 7:00 p.m.

How to Watch: National game on NBCSN (so you know what that means — prepare for so many Crosby/MacKinnon/Cole Harbour references)

Opponent Track: The Avs are the only totally unblemished team left in the NHL, a perfect five games and five wins on the young season and the only team that’s won every game they’ve played. Tonight marks the second game of a pretty brutal two week, six game road trip for Colorado, they pasted Washington 6-3 on Monday to start their trip.

Pens path ahead: This week is a pretty tough grouping for the Pens. They start three games in four days tonight, all at home is the good news. The bad news is the level of competition is pretty high; Dallas comes to town Friday then Vegas visits on Saturday.

Season Series: The Pens go out to altitude to play in Denver on Friday January 10th

Recent history: The Avs have been a tough out for Pittsburgh lately, the Pens were 1-1 vs them in 2018-19, which is a step up from being 0-2 in 2017-18. In the Pens win (which came at home) Patric Hornqvist scored a hat trick — on hat giveaway night — in just 2:47 of playing time to set a franchise record for quickest hat trick.

SBN Team Counterpart: It’s Mile High Hockey for all your Avs related news

Tale of the Tape

—If the early season results hold, we should see a ton of fireworks tonight. Two of the highest scoring teams in the league so far will clash, and both have been seeing a ton of rubber flying at both nets during their games.

—Colorado in particular has been playing incredibly wide open, they’re allowing a ton of shots against but haven’t minded much as their goalies have made saves and their offense has lit the other team up.

—Before the weekend the Pens were in 20th pace with a 7.62% 5v5 shooting. As you can see that’s rocketed up in a couple of 7 goal performances and the still pretty brief sample. Right now has definitely a “feast” time for Pittsburgh shooters, which hopefully can continue, even though the threat of regression considering this isn’t the most skilled lineup is looming large right now.

Player Stats at a Glance

via hockey-reference:

—A prolonged summer contract negotiation didn’t carryover whatsoever for the start of Mikko Rantanen’s season, who is picking up right where he left off.

Cale Makar (who turns 21 later this month) is in his first NHL regular season, starting out with six assists in his first five games. Not bad. Samuel Girard, 21, is eating big minutes in what is already the start of his third full NHL season. The duo is among the most exciting and promising young defensemen in a the league.

—Old friend Ian Cole just made his season debut on Monday after missing the first few games with an injury.

Possible Lines (based on Monday game)

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen

Andre Burakovsky - Nazem Kadri - Joonas Donskoi

Matt Nieto - Tyson Jost - Wilson

Matt Calvert - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Valeri Nichushkin

Samuel Girard / Erik Johnson

Nikita Zadorov / Cale Makar

Ryan Graves / Ian Cole

Expected scratches: Mark Barberio, Kevin Connauton, Vladislav Kamenov

Injured reserve: J.T. Compher

—Colorado was already a playoff team last year, and they’ve exploited using their cap space to add on all the players in the second line in favorable trades or free agent pickups, which boosts their depth quite a bit.

—New No. 1 goalie Philipp Grubbauer (taking the job from Sergei Varlamov, who departed over the summer as a free agent) is a perfect 4-0 with a .925 save% and 2.51 GAA to start out in his new role, including stopping 29/32 on Monday afternoon against his old team in Washington.


An emerging contender

A fast 5-0 start has the folks in Denver flying high (harf harf). From MHH, the faithful are understandably giddy about a team that’s ascending ahead of schedule:

With so many new faces in the lineup - and a new starting goalie - some fans thought that it might take a while for the Avs to fully hit their stride. That hasn’t been the case. The team is 5-0 and looks like a group that has the confidence of a Stanley Cup contender.

The scary part for opponents is that Nathan MacKinnon hasn’t really played up to his standards yet. He has eight points through five games, but MacKinnon hasn’t been as dangerous on a shift-to-shift basis, the way we are used to seeing from him. If he can start playing the way we know he can, the NHL is in some trouble.

No team can ride a hot streak like this for 82 games. That said, in what promises to be a very competitive Western Conference playoff race, banking these points early in the season is a huge advantage for Colorado. After sliding into the second Wild Card position each of the past two season, the Avs will be looking to grab one of the top-three spots in the Central division - and hopefully get home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Locking up a playoff spot during the last weekend of the season is exciting, but this team would do well to clinch early in order to give some rest - both physically and mentally - to the top players before the Stanley Cup playoffs begin.

We’re only two weeks into the season but right now the league is on notice. The Avalanche are turning from the young up and coming team to a legitimate contender right before our eyes

And now for the Pens..

Check the game notes, eh bud?

Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:

Potential Lines (Based on Tuesday’s practice)

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon

Dominik Kahun - Sam Lafferty - Patric Hornqvist

Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev

Adam Johnson - Joseph Blandisi -

Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson / Justin Schultz

Jack Johnson/ John Marino

Unknown: Jared McCann (day to day injury)

Expected scratches: Chad Ruhwedel (healthy), Juuso Riikola (healthy), Erik Gudbranson (healthy)

Injured: Bryan Rust (broken hand, LTIR), Evgeni Malkin (lower body injury, IR) Nick Bjugstad (lower body injury, IR), Alex Galchenyuk (lower body injury, IR)

—The Pens rotten injury luck continued yesterday with McCann absent from practiced and described as “Day to day”. Not the friendliest vocabulary term for his availability for tonight, but he hasn’t officially been ruled out just yet either, so we’ll have to see how the updates go.

—Per practice groupings yesterday, it looks like Gudbranson may be rotating out in favor of Jack Johnson for this game.