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When the Pittsburgh Penguins opened their season with a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, it came as a shock. The team managed to regroup and finished the first week of the season 2-1-0 after convincing wins against the Washington Capitals and Calgary Flames. Not necessarily the ideal start to the season, but the talented Penguins’ roster looked like it was gelling and trending upward.

However, distress flares should have been firing in every direction after the second week of action. The Penguins first collapsed against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 18, allowing three goals in the second period before eventually falling 6-3. Then they collapsed against the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 21, allowing two goals in the second period before falling 4-2. Blowing leads against both an up-and-coming team and one struggling out the gate is not a good sign for a Penguins squad looking to compete with the best in the Eastern Conference.

Tuesday’s (Oct. 24) loss to the Dallas Stars might have been the most alarming. After Bryan Rust opened the scoring in the first period, the Penguins had nary an answer for the Stars (4-0-1), who have yet to lose in regulation and saw star forward Jason Roberston score his first of the season after a slow start.

On Thursday, the Penguins will look to regain their footing against a Colorado Avalanche team that is firing on all cylinders. This will be a tough matchup.

Setting the Stage: Lineups, Injuries & Stats

With Alex Nedeljkovic landing on injured reserve, the Penguins brought up Magnus Hellberg to back up Tristan Jarry. Hellberg signed with the Penguins as a free agent in the offseason and played with Nedeljkovic last season with the Red Wings.

Related: Pittsburgh Penguins Need Jesse Puljujarvi

Latest News & Highlights

In a series of roster juggling moves, the Penguins sent Radim Zohorna to the minors and brought up Corey Andonovski to the NHL on Oct. 25. In a reversal going into tonight, Zohorna is with the Penguins and Andonovski is with Wilkes-Barre. In two games this season, Zohorna has scored the lone goal from the bottom six forwards. Vinnie Hinostroza has also been called up from the minors.

Injuries

Penguins: Mark Pysyk (lower body, injured reserve), Will Butcher (undisclosed, injured reserve), John Ludvig (concussion, Ludvig exited Tuesday’s (Oct. 24) game early due to injury), Alex Nedeljkovic (lower body, the Penguins placed Nedeljkovic on long term injured reserve)
Avalanche: Pavel Francouz (Francouz is on injured reserve as he continues to recover from an abductor procedure), Gabriel Landeskog (the Avalanche announced that Landeskog is undergoing surgery and is expected to miss the entire 2023-24 season)

Interesting Stats and Facts

Evgeni Malkin leads the Penguins in scoring with eight points in six games, though he was held scoreless against Dallas, and was a minus-3. In 20 career games against the Avalanche, he has eight goals and 22 points.
The line of Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Rust provided the lone goal against the Stars. Guentzel picked up his team-high sixth assist and has four goals and ten points against the Avalanche. Rust leads the team with five goals and has four goals and six assists in 11 games against Colorado. Crosby has three goals and six points on the season, with 12 goals and 18 points in 19 career games against the Avalanche.

Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Nate MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen are both off to hot starts and have played well against the Penguins in the past. MacKinnon has four goals and seven points in six games to go along with seven goals and 18 points in 18 career games against Pittsburgh. Rantanen is among the NHL’s scoring leaders with five goals and 12 points in six games, and he has put up nine assists and 11 points in as many games against the Penguins.
Erik Karlsson has been quiet the past two games but has scored a goal and four points in six games this season. He has five goals and 24 points in 29 games against the Avalanche. Cale Makar has been heating up, with five of his nine points through six games coming in his last two outings. So far, in five games against the Penguins, he has registered only an assist.
Tristan Jarry has been suspect against the Avalanche in the past, with a 1-4-0 record, posting a 3.27 goals-against average (GAA) and a .894 save percentage (SV%). So far this season, he has gone 1-3-0 with a 2.81 GAA and a .892 SV%
The other way, Alexander Georgiev has started the season as one of the NHL’s best. He is 6-0-0, with a 1.98 GAA and a .930 SV% – significantly better marks than his past against the Penguins: 3-4-1, 4.22 GAA, and .887.

Storylines

The Penguins may not be panicking, but after a 2-4-0 start and losing ground already, there ought to be some serious hand-wringing going on with general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas and head coach Mike Sullivan. With as much turnover as the team saw in the offseason, they could not have expected to slide back after last season’s finish.

Kyle Dubas Pittsburgh Penguins President of Hockey Ops (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Meanwhile, the Avalanche are humming along. With their win against the New York Islanders on Tuesday (Oct. 24), they set the record for most consecutive road wins in NHL history. At 6-0-0, they are eyeing the franchise’s best start, a seven-win streak to start the 1985-86 season when the team was still in Quebec.

Things could get ugly for the Penguins, and it is anyone’s guess when they will turn the ship around. They might still be in that “it’s early” phase of the season, but it won’t be much longer.

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The post Penguins Gameday Preview: Colorado Avalanche 10/26/23 appeared first on WorldNewsEra.

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