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Colorado Avalanche at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview and Game Day Thread: Clash of struggling contenders

Both teams are off to a slow start of the season

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME FIVE

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, BSSUN

Opponent SBNation Site: Mile High Hockey

Before the start of the regular season, both the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning were considered as the main favourites to win the Stanley Cup. The Avs had the highest odds by many prediction models and experts and the Lightning were not very far away at the second or the third place despite their off-season roster losses. The start of the new season, however, wasn’t very successful for either of the teams: the Avalanche lost three consecutive games after winning opening night, while the Lightning are still struggling to get a lead after four games.

Nikita Kucherov’s absence has significantly damaged the Lightning’s most dangerous weapon – their power play. Out of six power play opportunities (including a minute-and-a-half of a 5-on-3 opportunity) on Tuesday night in a game against the Florida Panthers, the Lightning converted none of them, mostly wasting them with some sloppy passes and bad decisions. At 5v5 the Lightning looked solid and had a slight lead in expected goals share and shot attempts, but for a team trailing for almost two periods, those aren't very impressive numbers.

Jon Cooper and his coaching staff are still trying to find new combinations. The Lightning’s head coach already mentioned several times that the team’s forward group need some time to adjust and the first month will be full of experiments, but Kucherov’s injury added some new troubles. Corey Perry started the last game on Kucherov’s usual spot on the first line, but was moved back to bottom-six later. In five minutes together with Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point, their line recorded just 15.38 CF% and were the weakest Lightning’s line on that day by a big margin.

After claiming back Alex Barre-Boulet on Friday, the Lightning have another option for their top-six and power play. In limited time at the end of the previous regular season Barre-Boulet was a good fit on the right wing of Brayden Point’s line. He recorded just three goals in 15 games, but his underlying numbers were pretty good. He, however, will be fighting for a roster spot with Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh, who already outplayed him in the preseason and played their best game so far, as the Lightning’s assistant coach Jeff Helpern mentioned on Tuesday.

Meanwhile the Lightning assigned Cal Foote to the Syracuse Crunch for a conditioning assignment. He already played in his first game of the season and might deserve a recall in near future, but he has to compete with Andrej Sustr for a last spot on the roster now. Sustr so far was pretty solid on the third pair.

Just like the Bolts, the Avs are heading into their meeting after a 1-4 loss against the Panthers. The Avalanche slow start was mostly caused by injuries – the team already lost their goalie Pavel Francouz, top-four defenceman Devon Toews and forward Valeri Nichushkin. Nathan MacKinnon missed the two opening games of the season due to positive COVID-19 tests and still hasn't found his groove.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines

(lines based on previous game)

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Corey Perry

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos

Pat Maroon- Ross Colton - Mathieu Joseph

Boris Katchouk - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Taylor Raddysh

Defense

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Andrej Sustr

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Brian Elliott

Colorado Avalanche Lines

(lines based on previous game)

Forwards

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen

Mikhail Maltsev - Nazem Kadri - Andre Burakovsky

Martin Kaut - J.T. Compher - Sampo Ranta

Tyson Jost - Darren Helm - Logan O’Connor

Defense

Bowen Byram - Cale Makar

Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson

Jack Johnson - Ryan Murray

Goaltenders

Darcy Kuemper

Jonas Johansson