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|6:00 PM PT7:00 PM MT8:00 PM CT9:00 PM ET2:00 GMT10:00 7:00 PM MST9:00 PM EST6:00 UAE (+1)21:00 ET0:00 BRT, December 13, 2019
Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado Attendance: 18,034
Avs look to stay atop West as Hall, Devils visit
With the New Jersey Devils off to a slow start and the season nearing the halfway mark, rumors have circulated that forward Taylor Hall could be dealt.
One of the teams mentioned as a possible destination for the 2017-18 Hart Trophy winner as the league's MVP is the Colorado Avalanche, and Friday's matchup between the teams in Denver probably will heighten the speculation. But it's understandable if Colorado ignores the noise and sticks with the players already on the roster.
After all, the Avalanche woke up Thursday morning sitting in first place in the Western Conference with an NHL-best plus-29 goal differential after a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers the previous night. They were in that lofty position despite the slew of injuries that have sidelined most of their top players for at least a few games. Now they're starting to get players healthy again while surging in the standings.
Goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, is expected to be in the lineup against the Devils, although he may serve as Pavel Francouz's backup. Defenseman Cale Makar (upper-body injury) is skating but will miss his third straight game on Friday night.
Colorado survived a strong game by the Flyers on Wednesday night without those two, largely because of Mikko Rantanen (two goals) and Francouz (32 saves). Rantanen has played well (three goals, five assists) in the six games since returning from an injury that cost him 16 games, and he is one reason the Avalanche are 7-0-1 in their past eight games.
Center Nazem Kadri was back in the lineup on Wednesday, giving Colorado coach Jared Bednar a rare game in which the top six forwards were available. He shuffled his top two lines, pairing Kadri with Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, and playing leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon between Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi.
"It's good depth, really good depth," Bednar said after the Wednesday game. "If we play the way we can, we're going to win a lot of hockey games, but we've got to get a little more consistent than we've been the last two home games."
The Devils arrive in Denver reeling, having gone 0-5-1 in their past six games, the latest being a 2-0 loss at Dallas on Tuesday night. The good news is they're getting center and third-leading scorer Nico Hischier back from illness.
Hischier missed the past three games, but he practiced with the team on Thursday.
New Jersey's struggles -- only Detroit has fewer wins than the Devils' nine -- cost John Hynes his job as head coach. Interim head coach Alain Nasreddine is winless in four games so far, and getting the first victory in Colorado might be a lot to ask.
"The situation we're in doesn't help, but I'm a passionate guy," Nasreddine said after the loss to the Stars. "I know it's hard now, but I enjoy what I do every day, and I wouldn't change it for the world."
The Devils will need their offense to show up against Colorado. The Avalanche lead the Western Conference with 114 goals, second in the league to Washington, and they have scored 33 goals in the past eight games.
With a full complement of forwards, that number could continue to rise against New Jersey, which has allowed 107 goals this season, third most in the NHL through Wednesday.
--Field Level Media
Updated December 12, 2019