Who: Colorado Avalanche (27-18-3, 57 points, 4th place Central Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (24-16-9, 57 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division)
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh for the home team, Altitude Sports for those at higher elevations, ESPN+
Opponent Track: Rumors of the Avalanche’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Seven losses in eight games around the New Year, coupled with slipping out of a playoff spot and the news of captain Gabriel Landeskog’s long-term injury, felt like they spelled doom for Colorado’s chance at a championship repeat. Since then, the Avs have flipped the narrative. They’ve won seven of their last eight games as they claw their way back up into a playoff spot.
Pens Path Ahead: Get ready for some late nights ahead, because the Penguins are embarking on a California road trip with away games in Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose over the next week. Then, the Pens will face the Islanders in Long Island before finally returning to PPG Paints a week from Saturday.
Season Series: This is the first time the Penguins are meeting up with this reigning Stanley Cup champs this season— although it won’t have been long since Sidney Crosby saw Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon.
Sid + some Avs soaking up the sunshine ☀️ pic.twitter.com/0szUJA68iD— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 2, 2023
Hidden Stat: So far this season, Mikko Rantanen has a 6-0 record when shooting pucks at surfboards in order to send Sidney Crosby plunging into a dunk tank.
Mikko Rantanen successfully dunked Sidney Crosby pic.twitter.com/fYbqypEWFu— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) February 4, 2023
Getting to know the Avalanche
SBN partner blog: Mile High Hockey
Potential Game Lines
Valeri Nichushkin - Nathan MacKinnon - Artturi Lehkonen
Mikko Rantanen - JT Compher - Evan Rodrigues
Matt Nieto - Alex Newhook - Denis Malgin
Kurtis MacDermid - Logan O’Connor - Andrew Cogliano
Devon Loews / Cale Makar
Samuel Girard / Erik Johnson
Bowen Byram / Andreas Englund
Goalies: Alexandar Georgiev, Pavel Francouz
Scratches: Darren Helm, Brad Hunt
IR: Gabriel Landeskog (recovering from knee surgery, expected return March 15), Josh Manson (lower body)
- Bowen Byram is set to return to the lineup tonight for his first game in more than three months. It’s been a rough year so far for the Avalanche’s 2019 fourth overall pick, with injuries limiting him to just ten games, but he’s still had time to show how his speed can help the Avalanche blue line contribute offensively.
- Valeri Nichuskin is also set to return after missing two games with an upper-body injury, offering a boost to the Avalanche’s top line. Fun stat:
Avs with Val Nichushkin in the lineup this season: 15-3-2— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) January 27, 2023
Avs without Val Nichushkin in the lineup this season: 11-15-1
via hockeydb (heading into Friday’s game)
- Nathan MacKinnon can’t stop setting up goals. His 41 assists in 37 games rank among the top 10 of all NHL skaters.
- Mikko Rantanen’s 34 goals trail only Connor McDavid, David Pastrnak and dark horse Tage Thompson for the NHL scoring lead heading into Monday.
- Flames head coach Daryl Sutter is a big fan of the Avs’ goaltending duo. Georgiev and Francouz have certainly been living up to the hype as of late— over the Avs’ recent seven-wins-in-eight-games stretch, Francouz has recorded a shutout and Georgiev is averaging 1.5 goals against.
Flames coach Darryl Sutter with big praise for #Avs goalie tandem Georgiev/Francouz:— Kyle Fredrickson (@kylefredrickson) January 18, 2023
“They’ve probably got the best one-two punch in goal for the whole year."
And now for the Pens...
Monday Practice Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen*
Ryan Poehling - Teddy Blueger - Josh Archibald*
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Jeff Petry
P.O. Joseph / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Casey DeSmith or Dustin Tokarski
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Drew O’Connor (?), Danton Heinen (?)
IR: Tristan Jarry, Jan Rutta, Josh Archibald (?), Kasperi Kapanen (?)
- Monday practice saw Rickard Rakell return to Crosby’s side on the top line, while Bryan Rust swapped to Evgeni Malkin’s line. We’ll see if that sticks for the game.
- Mike Sullivan called Kasperi Kapanen and Josh Archibald, who remained on the IR Monday, “game-time decisions” for tonight. They were both full participants in practice on Monday. If they skate, they would likely replace Drew O’Connor and Danton Heinen in the lineup.
- Tristan Jarry and Jan Rutta have not yet returned to practicing with the team, so the Penguins will be starting their second- or third-string goaltender tonight. Ron Hextall does not expect Jarry to be out very long, according to Pens Inside Scoop.
Tristan Jarry and Jan Rutta (both upper body) are again skating on their own before Penguins practice.— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) February 6, 2023