The big news for tonight's game is that Braydon Coburn, after missing twelve games for a vague lower body injury, will return to the lineup. This means that recent acquisition Carlo Colaiacovo will sit while Coburn makes his first appearance since October 8th. This is pretty huge, and it'll be interesting to see how Coburn looks, especially as he's expected to be paired with Luke Schenn.
Meanwhile, Wayne Simmonds will try to solidify his role on the top line in Michael Raffl's absence so that sneaky Chris VandeVelde doesn't jump back up there. Seriously, how did that even happen in the first place? It feels like a fever dream.
Now on to the opponent. Colorado has some pretty huge names on their roster right now: Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Erik Johnson, Ryan O'Reilly, Gabe Landeskog ... all young, all fast, and all talented. That's not even to mention Jarome friggin' Iginla, who's still absolutely killing it. They've got a good tandem between the pipes, Semyon Varlamov fresh off of his Vezina-losing year and Reto Berra with eyebrows as strong as ever (the latter of whom will be in net tonight). Their coach is a crazy person, but he's a crazy person who won Coach of the Year just a few short months ago.
And yet, despite all of this, the Avalanche are underachieving this year, only just recently snapping a three game losing streak. Granted, they were playing some pretty good teams, but the problems the Avalanche are having go deeper than just playing against some tough competition.
Currently the Avs goal differential sits at minus-9. There are only five teams with worse results: Edmonton, Arizona, Columbus, Carolina, and Buffalo. They've put up two or fewer goals in ten of their fifteen games. And it's not just that they've struggled to put up goals. Just like last year, they're struggling to get shots off. The Avs are constantly being smothered. In their last five games (2-2-1), they've only got more than 30 shots on goal in a game once. They were held to fewer than 25 shots on goal three times. That never bodes well.
Notably (or maybe not notably -- I don't care, I'm gonna talk about it anyhow), the Avs will be Danny Briere-less for a fifth consecutive game. You'll remember that Colorado traded P.A. Parenteau and a fifth round pick to the Habs over the summer in exchange for Briere. While Briere did score two game-winners for the Avalanche, he's been relatively silent otherwise. I've heard conflicting stories about why he's benched, with John Boruk reporting that he's been sidelined for "family-related issues" and Avalanche coach Patrick Roy making comments about the demotion alluding to the fact that Briere was brought in more for his locker room presence than anything else. Regardless, it seems unlikely that you'll see Danny Briere play tonight.
Reto Berra, who stopped 35 shots in regulation and one of two shots in Colorado's shootout win over the Maple Leafs, will backstop the Avs tonight. Steve Mason will go for the Flyers, marking his fourth straight start.
Seems like this game has all of the makings of a good one. Messy + fast is good, right? Let's go Flyers.