After a couple of nights off, the Colorado Avalanche (25-15-4) will look to snap a two-game losing skid as they host surging Pittsburgh Penguins (26-12-5) on Friday night at the Pepsi Center to kick off a pivotal midseason home stretch.
Despite missing plenty of key players due to injuries, including Sidney Crosby, the Penguins continue to look impressive, putting together a 16-6-4 record. After participating in practices, there is a high chance that Crosby plays tonight against the Avalanche. Colorado will also see a familiar face on the Penguins roster, as former Colorado Eagles forward Andrew Agozzino was called up the Penguins active roster. Carrying a 7-2-1 record through their past 10 games, they will be a good test for the Avalanche to kick off this important midseason home stretch.
Hitting a midseason slump, the Avs carry are 3-6-1 record in their last 10 games played, with key losses coming against the Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars, and the Chicago Blackhawks. With the top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen being reunited, it appears as if Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar has decided to shift the lines.
Below is the projected lineup that you can expect from the Avs.
92 Gabriel Landeskog – 29 Nathan MacKinnon – 96 Mikko Rantanen
95 Andre Burakovsky – 91 Nazem Kadri – 13 Valeri Nichushkin
83 Matt Nieto – 41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 11 Matt Calvert
17 Tyson Jost – 37 J.T. Compher – 81 Vladislav Kamenev
Healthy Scratch: Mark Barberio
With Grubauer struggling to find his form, the Avs will be turning to Pavel Francouz, who was in goal for the Avs narrow 1-0 loss against the Islanders.
“We feel like he gives us a good option to win a hockey game,” head coach Jared Bednar said of Francouz, who owns an 11-4-1 record, 2.32 goals-against average and .929 save percentage this season. “He hasn’t played in a little bit. He’s played good when he’s been in.”