Avs eager to keep defending home ice, welcome in Canucks

By Thomson Reuters Feb 20, 2024 | 2:17 AM

It will be strength against strength when the Colorado Avalanche face the Vancouver Canucks in Denver on Tuesday night.

At 21-5-0, Colorado has the best home record in the NHL, while Vancouver owns the sixth-best mark on the road at 18-9-4. However, the Canucks are coming off Monday’s 10-7 loss to the Minnesota Wild in Saint Paul, Minn.

Vancouver led 5-2 late in the second period before the Wild rattled off six unanswered goals, later tacking on two more in the final 1:07 of the third.

Colorado’s home success has been fueled by the play of All-Star forward Nathan MacKinnon, who has registered at least one point in all 26 games at Ball Arena this season. He had a goal and an assist in Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes and now has 22 goals and 33 assists in Denver.

MacKinnon’s 26-game run is the second-longest home point streak to begin a season in NHL history, trailing only Wayne Gretzky’s 40-game streak in 1988-89 with the Los Angeles Kings.

“It’s an incredible feat, but when you watch him day in and day out, sometimes we can get spoiled. So, I’m not surprised,” Avalanche defenseman Jack Johnson said. “The way he prepares every day and the way he takes care of himself, on top of his natural abilities, I’m not surprised. If there’s anyone that could do it, it’s him.”

Sunday’s win was needed for a Colorado team that was reeling after a 1-4-1 road trip coming out of the All-Star break.

“There’s still a lot of things in our game that need to be cleaned up detail-wise, and it showed at certain points tonight,” Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar said after Sunday’s win. “But overall, I think we never felt like we were out of this game, and I think that’s how it should always be regardless of the score.”

Colorado will now attempt to tighten up its game against the Canucks, who have the most points in the NHL with 80. But with Monday’s setback, they have lost back-to-back games, and they are now in jeopardy of dropping three straight for the first time this season.

Vancouver had a small scare when winger Conor Garland left Monday’s game after blocking a shot with his right knee in the second period. He was helped to the locker room but did return to the ice in the third.

Despite leading the league in points, the Canucks have not been able to close out their past two games. They allowed two goals in the third period in a loss to Winnipeg on Saturday night and took bad penalties that led to the Wild scoring two goals on separate five-on-three power plays in the third on Monday.

“I think we’re getting frustrated with some things out there,” Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said after the loss to the Jets. “We’ve got to build a resolve when you’re in tight situations that you are going to make sure you keep your head.”

Thatcher Demko, who was in net for the loss to Winnipeg, will likely get the start against Colorado after Casey DeSmith played Monday. DeSmith allowed eight goals on 25 shots against Minnesota.

–Field Level Media