The Colorado Avalanche travel out east after a five-game homestand in Denver. They arrive in Tampa Bay limping and hoping to find some momentum against the Lightning. The Avalanche did not play well at home, as they went 1-4-0 in five games. Their win came against the Jets in overtime, 3-2. Since that win, the Avs have lost three in a row, their latest coming against the Sabres, 4-2, on the 5th. That’s a game the Avalanche have to win.
They cannot lose to the Sabres at home. However, there aren’t too many expectations on the Avs this season. The Avalanche will be happy to get their captain back tonight, Gabriel Landeskog. Landeskog was suspended for four games for a high cross-check. Without him, this Avs roster is pretty thin. Matt Duchene wanted out of Denver and he got his wish with a trade to the Ottawa Senators. The Avs said goodbye to Ryan O’Reilly in 2015, which certainly disrupted their offensive firepower. They of course had to deal with the unexpected departure of head coach Patrick Roy last year.
The Avalanche thought process was that they needed that money to pay others. They couldn’t afford O’Reilly and pay Landeskog, along with Tyson Barrie and Nathan MacKinnon. When you look back, did the Avalanche get rid of the right guy. Barrie was expected to develop into one of the finest defenceman in the NHL. While he’s been playing alright hockey, he hasn’t developed into the player they expected. In Tampa, the Lightning are armed with a two-headed monster in Steven Stamkos and Nikiti Kucherov. Kucherov has taken over Tyler Johnson as the sidekick to Stamkos. Johnson, though, has been playing better hockey of late. If they can get all of those three playing on fire, the Lightning are going to be a tough out in the playoffs. Head below for our free Avalanche vs. Lightning pick.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Pick
The Lightning enter Thursday night with a record of 19-6-1. That puts them at 1st in the Eastern Conference. With a win last night for the Leafs, they’re just 3 points behind the Bolts in the Atlantic. The Lightning are coming off an easy rocking chair win over the Islanders by a score of 6-2. They defeated the Sharks in similar fashion, a 5-2 win on the 2nd. The offence was on point, which has been the case through the whole season. Tampa are 1st in the NHL with 3.7 goals scored per game. Kucherov is 1st in points in the league, while Stamkos is right behind him in 2nd. In net, Andrei Vasilevskiy looks like a guy who could be a Vezina candidate very soon. He enters tonight with a 2.21 GAA and 0.932 save percentage.
The Lightning have also been lights out at home, where they are 11-2-1. In their last five games at home, they’ve averaged 4.6 goals per game. Overall, they are averaging 3.64 goals per game in Tampa. Conversely, the Avs enter with a record of 4-7-0 on the road. They are scoring just 2.5 goals per game in this respect. In their last four road games, they’ve also gone 0-4 against teams with a winning percentage greater than .600. The Lightning certainly fill that requirement for being a team above .600. The Avs should have a ton of issues trying to contain the speed of the Lightning tonight. The Lightning should win, and should be able to win by at least a couple of goals on Thursday night.
PICK: LIGHTNING -1.5 (+120)