NHL on NBCSN: Avs seek to change storyline versus Blues

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Colorado Avalanche host the St. Louis Blues at the Pepsi Center at 10:00 p.m. ET.

The biggest stories for the Colorado Avalanche this season have been the messy situation with restricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly that will probably end in a trade and captain Gabriel Landeskog’s efforts to return from a concussion.

If they want more people to associate them with something more positive, then the best way to do that would be to get on a winning streak.

The Avalanche are near the bottom of the pack this season with a 6-7-1 record. Part of that is due to injuries, but they’ve also forced goaltender Semyon Varlamov to face a staggering 93 shots over their last two contests and he has responded by surrendering 10 goals over that span.

They still managed to eek out a win against Nashville on Monday, although they got a break when Matt Duchene scored a critical goal following a blown offside call. A win’s still a win, but the big question is if they can build off of that momentum.

The visiting Blues are bound to be exhausted after playing in Vancouver on Sunday and at home on Tuesday, but they’ll also be hungry coming off of a 2-1 loss against the San Jose Sharks. On top of that, this will likely be goaltender Jaroslav Halak’s first start since suffering a groin injury.

Halak’s been one of the top netminders in the league in recent years and might prove to be the kryptonite for an Avalanche offense that’s started to click recently. That would just invite more talk about who the Avalanche don’t have playing for them right now. We’ll see if they can force a different headline.

Probable goaltenders: STL – Halak (3-0-0, 2.10 GAA, .889 SV%) | COL – Varlamov (4-7-1, 3.00 GAA, .905 SV%)

Top scorers: STL – Alexander Steen (4-11-15, 16 GP) | COL – Duchene (6-11-17, 14 GP)

Notable Injuries:
St. Louis – Forwards: Jamie Langenbrunner (hip)
Colorado – Forwards: Gabriel Landeskog (head), Steve Downie (knee) Defensemen: Erik Johnson (head), Ryan Wilson (leg)

Related:

Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Flyers, Penguins enter next chapter of their clash

Lightning give Vasilevskiy the hook after very rare Jurco goal

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By just about any measure, Monday’s been lousy to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

He was pulled with a few minutes remaining in the first period after Chicago Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead, scoring those three goals on just eight shots on net.

You could summarize Vasilevskiy’s awful start by those numbers, or by how rare the 3-1 goal was for the scorer.

Tomas Jurco failed to score a goal or an assist in 16 games with the Red Wings, then went pointless in nine more games with Chicago before finally scoring his first goal of the season on Monday.

Now, Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy because Jurco scored that tally. Still, it rubs a little extra salt in his wounds all things considered.

Coach Q thinks Anisimov will be back by playoffs for Blackhawks

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The bad news is that Artem Anisimov seems likely to miss all – or at least most – of the regular season for the Chicago Blackhawks with his lower-body injury.

The good? Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville believes that Anisimov will be ready once the playoffs swing into motion, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.

Anisimov was hurt when he got tangled up with Canadiens forward Alex Radulov on March 14:

The Blackhawks have been filling Anisimov’s typical spot alongside Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin with Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz lately. There have been flashes of brilliance with Schmaltz, but Chicago would probably feel most confident with Anisimov back in his familiar place.

Chicago’s Central lead is pretty secure over the Minnesota Wild at the moment, which likely reduces motivation to rush Anisimov back before he’s truly ready. The Blackhawks close out their regular season on April 8, so there’s still time for him to heal up.

Ducks demote Enroth, so Gibson’s close to a return

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The Anaheim Ducks are flying high – er, waddling with some swagger? – right now thanks to Jonathan Bernier‘s somewhat shocking turnaround, but the pending return of John Gibson is promising.

(Especially since the Ducks will likely want him to shake off some rust before the playoffs begin.)

While it’s not clear if he’s exactly 100 percent healthy just yet, the Ducks sending Jhonas Enroth back to the AHL is a strong sign that Gibson is close.

Enroth actually never got a shot to start for the Ducks, as his last NHL appearance came on Nov. 30, closing off his ill-fated run with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Considering that Enroth was once a fairly hot commodity as at least a promising backup, it will be interesting to see how his 2017-18 season pans out. Will he get more or less of a chance than he received this season?

Bernier, meanwhile, is richly rewarding the Ducks for sticking with him.

He’s provided them with a Vezina-caliber March: 9-1-1, 1.71 GAA and .943 save percentage with one shutout. You almost wonder if there’s at least some potential for a goalie controversy if Gibson stumbles whenever he gets back into action … but hey, having two good goalies to choose from is better than none.

(Which was the scenario that must have scared the Ducks when Gibson got hurt in the first place.)

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning

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The Tampa Bay Lightning almost certainly haven’t faced the Chicago Blackhawks in a game this important since the two teams were vying for a Stanley Cup.

While the Blackhawks have already punched their ticket to the postseason and are merely trying to pad their lead in the Central Division, the Bolts are fighting for their playoff lives. At the moment, they rank three points behind the Boston Bruins for the final spot in the East. With a game in hand, they can make up a lot of ground tonight.

With all of that in mind, it should be an entertaining contest. You can check it out on NBCSN, watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.