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Feb 9, 2024 7:01 pm

Avs, on 3-game slide, face tough test at Panthers

mackinnon

It’s been a brutal road trip for the Colorado Avalanche, and it could get even tougher this weekend.

The Avalanche, who have lost three consecutive games, tied for their worst skid of the season, are set to visit the red-hot Florida Panthers on Saturday.

Florida has won five of its past six games, including a 4-2 victory Thursday over the Washington Capitals.

Colorado, which has three games left on this trip, including the Panthers contest, lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 on Thursday.

“We were under duress the whole game,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said.

But it’s not just the Carolina game. Colorado’s power play has disappeared during this entire road trip, going 0-for-12.

Another issue is Colorado’s defense, which has allowed 10 goals over their past two games.

Backup goalie Justus Annunen took the loss on Tuesday as Colorado fell 5-3 to the New Jersey Devils. He has played just six career games (3-2-1, 3.97 goals-against average).

Starter Alexandar Georgiev, an All-Star this year for the first time in his career, lost on Thursday.

For the season, Georgiev is 27-12-3 with a 2.91 GAA.

Offensively, the Avalanche are led by Nathan MacKinnon who, at age 28 is already a seven-time All-Star and a key to Colorado’s 2022 Stanley Cup title.

This season, McKinnon leads Colorado in goals (32), assists (53) and power-play points (32).

Defenseman Cale Makar, who is second on the Avalanche in assists (47) and third in points (60), is another star. At 25, he has already won NHL Rookie of the Year (Calder Trophy), the award for the league’s top defenseman (Norris), MVP of the 2022 playoffs (Conn Smythe) and the Stanley Cup.

Winger Mikko Rantanen, second on the team with 67 points, and defenseman Devon Toews, fourth with 21 assists, are other Colorado standouts.

Meanwhile, the Panthers are playing particularly well on defense at the moment, holding six consecutive teams to two goals or less.

“We swarm,” Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. “We play that man-on-man system, and we have a lot of guys who can do great things in the D-zone, staying between the puck and the net.”

On offense, Florida’s Sam Reinhart ranks second in the NHL with 38 goals. He also leads the league with 21 power-play goals.

Matthew Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov are tied for the team lead with 37 assists each.

Completing Florida’s “Big Four” on offense is Carter Verhaeghe, who is second on the team in goals (25) and third in points (52).

Sergei Bobrovsky, who leads Eastern Conference goalies in wins, is Florida’s defensive engine. He is 24-10-2 with a 2.49 GAA.

Due in part to the All-Star break, Bobrovsky hadn’t played an NHL game since Jan. 26 and said he felt rusty in Thursday’s win over the Capitals.

“It felt like I hadn’t played in a month,” said Bobrovsky, who has won three straight starts. “It was good to face a lot of shots in the beginning. But it was even better to win.”

-Field Level Media

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