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NHL-best Avs out to start new streak vs. Kraken

Sportsnaut
Apr 16, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Kraken forward Matty Beniers (10) is congratulated by teammates on the bench after scoring his first NHL during the second period against the New Jersey Devils at Climate Pledge Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a rare loss, the league-leading Colorado Avalanche will look to start another winning streak when they visit the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday.

The Avalanche had their nine-game winning streak and 11-game points streak (10-0-1) come to an end Monday in a 3-2 home defeat to the Washington Capitals. Colorado twice came back to equalize, but Marcus Johansson’s goal at 10:46 of the third period put Washington ahead for good.

While Colorado (55-15-6, 116 points) has clinched the top seed in the Western Conference, the Florida Panthers are still in close pursuit of the Avalanche for the overall NHL points lead at 114. The Avalanche are looking to win the Presidents’ Trophy for the second consecutive year, and fourth time in franchise history.

Monday’s setback was just the fifth time the Avalanche have lost on home ice this season.

“I liked our competitiveness. I didn’t like our execution,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “Give (the Capitals) some credit, they put some pressure on us. … But we had a turnover on goal one, we had a turnover going backwards on goal three, and it took away a little bit of our offensive output tonight.”

Despite the 60-point gap in the standings between the Avalanche and the expansion Kraken (25-44-6, 56 points), Colorado will need more offensive sharpness to top a Seattle team that has been difficult for opponents to break down.

The Kraken are among the league leaders in fewest shots allowed per game, and fewest total shots allowed. Monday’s 4-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators saw the Kraken concede only 14 shots, their lowest total of the season, and thus in franchise history.

“We skated, and we had pretty good puck pressure everywhere,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. “It seemed like we were a step quicker than they were most of the night. … When you’re playing without the puck that’s important, and with the puck it’s even more important.”

Seattle trailed 2-1 midway through the second period before scoring three unanswered goals. Matty Beniers got the equalizer, giving the rookie forward a three-game points streak (two goals, one assist) to begin his NHL career.

A victory Wednesday will give the Kraken their first-ever three-game winning streak.

After struggling through an 0-for-16 power-play drought over nine games, Seattle has scored a power-play goal in each of its last two games.

Given the Kraken’s normal goalie rotation, Philipp Grubauer is likely to get the start over Chris Driedger on Wednesday. Driedger made 12 saves to earn the win over Ottawa.

Pavel Francouz is the Avalanche’s probable starter in net. Colorado has been following a pattern of starting Francouz once every three games, allowing some rest for regular starter Darcy Kuemper heading into the postseason.

Nazem Kadri has missed Colorado’s last eight games due to an upper-body injury, but Kadri is traveling with the Avalanche on their three-game road trip and he participated in practice Monday. Erik Johnson (two-game absence) and Andrew Cogliano (one game) are questionable for Wednesday due to undisclosed injuries.

Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin has seven points (three goals, four assists) over a five-game points streak.

Colorado won its two previous meetings with Seattle this season.

–Field Level Media