The Colorado Avalanche will host the New York Islanders in an NHL regular-season fixture tomorrow morning.
The Colorado Avalanche is gradually regaining form, despite the absence of Ross Colton due to a leg injury. The team has a strong 4-0-1 record in their last five matches. Artturi Lehkonen, who has been out since 10 November due to a neck injury, has resumed training. Sam Girard, who has been dealing with mental health issues, returned last match. Despite some losses, the team's first line proved its efficacy, particularly in their Sunday victory. Valeri Nichushkin scored the deciding goal, and substantial contributions were also made by Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon. Nichushkin has tallied 17 goals and 19 assists, while MacKinnon has scored 19 goals and posted 58 points.
Despite their powerful offensive, the Avalanche suffered a loss to the Arizona Coyotes in late December, going down in overtime with a 5:4 score. However, they've exhibited improved results since then, conceding only two goals in their last two games and securing victories against both St. Louis and San Jose. The team's average stats stand at 3.66 goals per game offense and 3.09 goals per game defense, with their attack being the second-best in the league. Nathan MacKinnon continues to make his mark with 19 goals and 37 assists. Colorado's coach, Jared Bednar, expressed dissatisfaction following the missed win against the Coyotes, stressing the need to enhance puck control and pressing efficiency. The Russian goaltending duo, Georgiev-Prosvetov, are performing remarkably well, with a goals-against average of 2.86 and 2.84 respectively.
The New York Islanders are having an unstable period, with three wins and four losses in their last matches against Eastern Conference teams. Most noteworthy were back-to-back losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins, with a cumulative score of 10:1, including a 7:0 thrashing in late December. The Islanders have been experimenting with their lineup, bringing back Scott Mayfield after injury and reinstating Casey Cizikas who missed a game due to illness, but returned the last match. Hudson Fasching occupied a second-line spot, replacing Pierre Engvall.
After suffering defeats against Pittsburgh, one of which stood as one of the heaviest in club history with six goals scored in the second period, the Islanders are gearing up for upcoming matchups. The team is led by Mathew Barzal, Noah Dobson, and Brock Nelson who are posting impressive numbers. Russian goaltenders Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov are consistently performing in the crease, boasting save percentages of 91.22 and 91.79. The Islanders are third in the Metropolitan Division and are locked in a tight battle for playoff spots. Defenceman Roman Romanov is also making a significant contribution, playing equal matches with Dobson and scoring two goals with six assists in 36 games.
In the last five encounters between the Islanders and the Avalanche, Colorado has secured victory in four games. The most recent clash occurred on 25 October 2023, where Colorado emerged victorious with a 7:4 result. In December 2022, Colorado also triumphed but only in a penalty shootout, securing a 1:0 win. The Islanders clinched their sole win against Colorado in October 2022, ending the game 5:4 in their favour.
For the first time in many years, we will see a goaltending confrontation between two Russian pairs, and as it stands, Georgiev-Prosvetov of Colorado are outperforming the more experienced Sorokin-Varlamov duo in overall performance and frame-play. The Avalanche, confidently second in the West, could have made it six wins in a row if they hadn't tragically let a four-goal lead slip against Arizona. The Islanders have clinched two wins in their last six matches and have conceded 10 goals to a crisis-stricken Pittsburgh in 2023. My bet is on a home victory for Colorado.