Preview: Stars at Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche are discovering how difficult life can be without two of their best players as they host the Dallas Stars on Friday in a battle of Central Division foes. Colorado, which is missing No. 1 linemates Mikko Rantanen and captain Gabriel Landeskog indefinitely with lower-body injuries, has dropped three of its last four games (1-2-1) after a 4-3 overtime loss to Florida on Wednesday.
"We're not going to sit here and feel sorry for ourselves,'' Avalanche center Nazem Kadri, who was elevated to the top line, told reporters. "Obviously, those are hard guys to replace, and I'm not sure we can replace them, but we have good enough guys in this dressing room to be able to step up and answer the bell and produce." Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon doesn't seem fazed by the loss of his talented teammates with a point in all 12 games this season after recording a goal and an assist Wednesday. Dallas has quickly turned its season around after a 1-7-1 start by winning four of its last five games, including a 6-3 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday. Stars right wing Alexander Radulov recorded four points in his first 13 games this season before erupting for three goals and an assist Tuesday with teammate Tyler Seguin telling reporters about the Russian: “If you can’t tell - when he’s going, everyone kind of goes. He’s one of the catalysts of this team, even when he’s got that swag and that drive and passion.”
TV: 9 p.m. ET, FS Southwest (Dallas), Altitude (Colorado)
ABOUT THE STARS (5-8-1): Roope Hintz scored his team-high seventh goal of the season Tuesday and has converted 26.9 percent of his shots - fifth in the league among players with at least 20 entering Thursday - while Seguin (club-most nine points) recorded a goal and two assists. Jamie Benn, who averaged 28.1 goals over his first 10 seasons, has started his 11th slowly with one tally. Anton Khudobin (1-3-0, 3.21 goals-against average, .888 save percentage in six games - five starts - versus Colorado) gets the call in goal Friday with Ben Bishop scheduled to take the net Saturday versus Montreal.
ABOUT THE AVALANCHE (8-2-2): MacKinnon leads the club with seven goals and 17 points while new linemates Kadri and Joonas Donskoi have scored five goals apiece. Veteran defenseman Ian Cole has a team-best plus-10 rating while averaging 18 minutes, 18 seconds of ice time after playing less than even (minus-1) for the first time this season Wednesday. Colorado plays at Arizona on Saturday, so goaltender Pavel Francouz (2-1, 2.63, .926) is expected to make his fourth career start in one of the games.
1. Stars D Andrej Sekera and Avalanche F Colin Wilson missed their last games because of undisclosed injuries.
2. Dallas has scored a power-play goal in three of its last five contests (3-for-15) after starting the season 1-for-25.
3. Colorado won three of four meetings last season with MacKinnon recording two goals and six points.
PREDICTION: Avalanche 3, Stars 2