The Avalanche take on Alex Ovechkin
and the Washington Capitals at Pepsi Center on Thursday in a game some view as a possible preview of a Stanley Cup final.
The Avalanche are second in the Central Division, one point behind St. Louis, which plays in Vegas on Thursday. They’ve won five games in a row and are 8-1-0 in the past nine.
The Capitals are first in the Metropolitan Division, three points ahead of Pittsburgh, but they’ve lost two games in a row and are 2-4-0 in the past six.
Ovechkin has 698 career goals and eventually will become the eighth player in NHL history to score 700. He’s gone two games without a goal but has 15 points (14 goals, one assist) in his past nine games.
“An elite goal scorer, a highly competitive guy, hasn’t slowed down at all even as he’s getting older,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar
said after the morning skate. “He keeps finding a way to produce. With the pre-scouts that are going on, to be able to do that is amazing.”
will start against his former Capitals teammates. He’s won his last four starts while posting a 0.75 goals-against average and .974 save percentage. He made 34 saves Tuesday in a 3-0 win against Ottawa.
But the Capitals are a lot better than the Senators.
“They have a dangerous team,” Bednar said. “They get a lot of help from their back end, guys are contributing 5-on-5, the power play’s very dangerous. This is a good hockey team, a well-rounded, experienced team.”
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov
talked about Ovechkin’s consistency over the years. Ovechkin, 34, has 40 goals and 17 assists in 55 games this season.
“He scores 40, 50 every year,” Zadorov said. “It doesn’t matter his age or anything, he goes out there and scores all the time. He’s really dangerous and you don’t want to give him any room. That’s the biggest key for us, stay close to him and play hard against him.”
Defenseman Mark Barberio
has returned from a conditioning assignment with the Colorado Eagles, but he won’t play Thursday. He didn’t have a point in four games with the AHL team.
Andre Burakovsky -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog -- J.T. Compher -- Joonas Donskoi
Valeri Nichushkin -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Matt Calevrt
Tyson Jost -- Vladislav Kamenev -- Matt Nieto
Ryan Graves -- Cale Makar
Samuel Girard -- Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov -- Ian Cole