The Colorado Avalanche begin their longest road trip of the season, facing their first of five Southeast division road opponents tonight in Raleigh, North Carolina. They get some help, with the return of goalie Craig Anderson and team captain Adam Foote to the ice.
Newly acquired defenseman Matt Hunwick will also play tonight, with struggling defenseman Ryan Wilson the healthy scratch. This will also mark the Avalanche debut of newly acquired forward Tomas Fleischmann, a player very familiar with the Carolina Hurricanes after his tenure with the Washington Capitals. Fleischmann is expected to skate on the second line tonight, alongside Matt Duchene and David Jones. Daniel Winnik has been bumped to the first line with Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny, adding a much need physical presence on the top line that has been missing since the injury to Chris Stewart last Saturday.
The Carolina Hurricanes have struggled some this season, but still possess two of the most impactful players in the NHL. They are led by one of the best two-way forwards in the game, center Eric Staal, who leads the team with 28 points. Staal provides a matchup nightmare for any team, but especially an Avalanche team that just traded away Scott Hannan, their most consistent defenseman. Without a true shutdown defenseman on the roster, Colorado will have to use a more focused team approach to completely take Staal out of the game. Carolina is also armed with goalie Cam Ward, who is in the middle of yet another very good season. Ward carries a .920 SV% into this game, and will make things difficult for the Avalanche forwards tonight.
While Colorado has been 3-3 in their past six games, Carolina has lost five of their past six (though three of those games were in shootout). However, these past six games have all been tightly fought, and against playoff level competition. Expect a close game as the new Colorado players are still figuring out their new teammates.
As this is an east coast game, the puck drops early at 5:00 pm MDT.
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