Preview: Avalanche at Blues
A nine-game point streak (8-0-1) has the Colorado Avalanche nipping at the heels of the St. Louis Blues atop the Central Division. The Avalanche can leapfrog the first-place Blues and avenge an early-season setback to their division rivals on Monday when they meet in St. Louis.
Nathan MacKinnon extended his point streak to four games (two goals, four assists) by setting up captain Gabriel Landeskog's power-play goal in the first period on Friday before capping Colorado's 3-1 victory over New Jersey with an empty-net goal. MacKinnon, who has 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in the past 17 games, recorded his team's lone tally in a 3-1 setback in St. Louis on Oct. 21. The Blues routinely have gotten the better of the Avalanche in the Gateway City, boasting an 8-1-0 record in their last nine encounters and a 15-3-0 mark since April 5, 2011. Robert Thomas didn't dent the scoresheet in the first meeting with Colorado, however he extended his point streak to four games (one goal, five assists) by setting up three goals in the third period of St. Louis' 4-3 win over Chicago on Saturday.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TVA, Sportsnet East, Sportsnet Ontario, Sportsnet Pacific, Altitude (Colorado), FS Midwest (St. Louis)
ABOUT THE AVALANCHE (21-8-3): Landeskog has three goals in five contests since returning from a 16-game absence with a lower-body injury. An impressive scoring output to be certain, but Valeri Nichushkin has doubled that with six tallies in 10 outings after going 91 games without a goal. "He's going out and playing some great hockey for the team," defenseman Mark Barberio said the 24-year-old Russian. "He's such a big presence and he's got a lot of speed. He's strong down low and he's got all the tools."
ABOUT THE BLUES (20-8-6): Tyler Bozak celebrated playing in his 700th NHL game by tallying twice versus the Blackhawks to help St. Louis answer a three-game skid by winning the first two contests of the four-game homestand. Defenseman Justin Faulk capped the four-goal uprising in the third period by scoring the go-ahead goal with 2:26 remaining. "It was nice to see us keep pushing. That first one gave us some momentum and we went on from there. We were able to stick with it," said Faulk, who also set up David Perron's eventual game-winning tally in the first meeting with Colorado.
1. St. Louis G Jordan Binnington has turned aside 41-of-44 shots to win both career starts against Colorado.
2. Colorado G Pavel Francouz sports a 4-0-1 mark with a 1.90 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in December.
3. St. Louis C Ryan O'Reilly has eight of his club-best 23 assists over the last 10 games.
PREDICTION: Blues 4, Avalanche 3