Three Observations Heading into Game 79 Between the Penguins and Avalanche

The Pens Nation Gameday Report

By: Andy Hughes (@PensNation_Andy)

Rest Ahead?

The Pittsburgh Penguins only have four games left in the regular season, including tonight’s match against the Colorado Avalanche. With the Metropolitan Division title already wrapped up, the Penguins may elect to rest some of their players in the next few games. Jussi Jokinen and Olli Maatta both have upper-body injuries and missed last night’s game against the Minnesota Wild. Both injuries are not major, according to Dan Bylsma. It would make sense for Pittsburgh to just rest them again today as both clearly are not 100%. In addition, both of them have played in at least 75 games this season for the Penguins. Ray Shero announced today that the team recalled forward Adam Payerl from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which could mean some other players may get some rest soon. Payerl, 23, has notched 3 goals and 6 assists in 38 games in the AHL this season and could make his NHL debut tonight. If he does, he would become the eighth player this season to make his NHL debut for the Penguins. Pittsburgh also recalled forward Andrew Ebbett on Friday evening. He replaced Jokinen in the lineup last night in Minnesota.

Watch Out for the Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche were the worst team in the Western Conference in 2012-13 after finishing with a 16-25-7 record. 2013-14 has been a much different story as the Avs are one of the best stories of the season. New coach Patrick Roy has transformed Colorado into a playoff team who could surprise some people in the postseason. The Avs have won 6 straight games after an impressive 4-0 defeat of the St. Louis Blues yesterday. With the win, they became the only NHL team to beat every team in the league at least once. This is the second and final meeting of the season between these two teams. On October 21st in Pittsburgh, goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere and forward Gabriel Landeskog led Colorado to a 1-0 win against the Penguins. Pittsburgh will look to win their last game on the road in the regular season while Colorado will look to win their home finale. Rookie sensation Nathan MacKinnon has been extremely impressive in his first NHL season. In 77 games, he has recorded 24 goals and 36 assists. His 60 points leads all NHL rookies. In addition, 2009 first-round pick Matt Duchene is having a career season, recording 70 points in 71 games for the Avs. However, Duchene will not play because of a knee injury. Although it is a huge loss for the team, it will give MacKinnon more minutes, which will only help the rookie grow as a player.

Look Out Coach

When former goaltender and current Avalanche coach Patrick Roy won 40 games for the franchise in goal in 2000-01, no one really thought another goaltender could achieve that in the Colorado’s future other than Roy. Especially after a season in which Colorado had one of the worst records in the league a year ago. Well, it has been quite a year for goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who tied Roy’s record with a 4-0 shutout of the Blues yesterday for his 40th win of 2013-14. Varlamov may be getting the start against the Penguins tonight, which will give him an opportunity to break Roy’s record. After facing accusations of assaulting his girlfriend earlier this season, he has had a career season. The case was dismissed because prosecutors could not prove that Varlamov was guilty. He has been nothing but tremendous in between the pipes all season long for the Avs. His 40 wins leads the NHL and his .927 save-percentage ranks 4th in the NHL.