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Avalanche at Blues Preview: Neck and neck

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The Central, and the West, come down to these two teams.

NHL: OCT 21 Avalanche at Blues Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Blues sit at first in the Central Division, and also the Western Conference, with 45 points and 20 wins. The Avalanche are one point behind them with 21 wins.

There’s not a lot of room for error. The Blues’ three game losing streak trimmed their divisional lead down to a razor’s edge, and the Avalanche just keep winning. They’re 8-1-1 in their last ten while the Blues are 6-3-1, and on the road? Colorado is 11-5-1. One of those losses came against the Blues earlier this season on October 21st, but with a team like Colorado, it’s difficult to assume another win for the Blues is a foregone conclusion.

The Avs score the most goals a game in the league (3.68), but the Blues outshine them in special teams. Where the Avs are 16th on the power play, the Blues are 8th. Colorado is 19th on the PK, the Blues are 6th. As dangerous as the Avalanche can be even strength, the game might be won with some solid play from the Blues’ special teams.

St. Louis spotted the Blackhawks three goals on Saturday night before the Blues switched on the jets in the third for four unanswered goals to win. That might be harder tonight, especially against Colorado goaltender Pavel Francouz. Francouz’s .932 save percentage and 2.26 GAA have been stellar, but he was ill yesterday and so tonight could very well mark the return of Philipp Grubauer.

The Blues need to keep an eye on Nathan MacKinnon tonight. He scored the Avalanche’s one goal in October’s meeting, and he’s scoring about a goal and a half a game this season. He’s also already at 50 points on the year.

Zach Sanford is returning tonight for the Blues, but Ivan Barbashev is the latest Blues forward to head out of the revolving injury door. Barbashev is currently listed as day-to-day and hopefully will manage to stay off of the IR.