Following the Avalanche’s 5-2 victory over Florida on Thursday, Colorado’s weeklong road trip finishes on Saturday night in Tampa Bay. Here’s five story lines to watch heading into the showdown against the Lightning at Amalie Arena.
Taking on hockey’s best. Tampa Bay (22-7-1) is currently the league’s best team, sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference with an NHL-most 45 points. They’ve won five consecutive games and have won eight of their last nine games overall after Thursday’s defeat of the Red Wings.
MacKinnon’s scoring pace. On Saturday, Nathan MacKinnon seeks to tie Joe Sakic by becoming the second player in Avalanche history to reach the 20-goal mark in 30 games. Sakic notched his 20th goal in the 30th game of the 1995-96 season. MacKinnnon’s last goal came in Detroit on Sunday.
Avs look for revenge. In the the previous meeting between Colorado and Tampa Bay this year, the Lightning topped the Avalanche 1-0 at the Pepsi Center on Oct. 24. Semyon Varlamov was nails with 23 stops in the defeat, yielding only a third-period power play goal to Nikita Kucherov.
The offense’s high ceiling. Though Colorado (17-7-5) gave up a six-spot in a blowout loss in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the Avalanche have also proved capable of pouring in an onslaught of goals. Colorado’s scored six or more goals six different times, tied with Calgary and Tampa Bay for a league high.
Mikko Rantaten is streaking. Rantanen (47 total points) has either been tied or led the league outright in scoring since Oct. 23. And with a first-period goal against the Panthers, the forward’s riding a career-best 10-game point streak, with five goals and 13 assists in that time.
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