Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Three questions facing Colorado Avalanche

1. Will Philipp Grubauer be the No. 1 goalie?
General manager Joe Sakic said the Avalanche have two No. 1 goalies, Grubauer and Semyon Varlamov, who will compete for playing time.
Grubauer, 26, is beginning a three-year contract he signed after he was acquired in a trade from the Washington Capitals on June 22. A backup for most of the past three seasons, Grubauer went 15-10-3 with a 2.35 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 2017-18. He's 43-31-11 in his NHL career with a 2.29 GAA and .923 save percentage.
Varlamov, 30, is entering the final season of a five-year contract. He has been terrific when healthy but has missed 94 games because of injuries and illnesses in the past four seasons after he was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2013-14. He went 24-16-6 with a 2.68 GAA and .920 save percentage last season but missed 18 regular-season games because of injury and illness before missing all six games in the Western Conference First Round against the Nashville Predators with a knee injury.
2. Who will emerge as the No. 2 center?
The Avalanche need a reliable center who can take charge of a second scoring line.
Tyson Jost, 20, and Alexander Kerfoot, 23, are the leading in-house candidates. Each played all three forward positions as a rookie last season. Carl Soderberg, 32, scored 16 goals to match his NHL career high, but he is more suited as a third-line, shutdown center and penalty-killer.
Jost, selected by Colorado with the No. 10 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, had 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in 65 games. He had 12 points (nine goals, three assists) in the final 31 games and one assist in six playoff games. Kerfoot, whose 43 points (19 goals, 24 assists) in 79 games were fifth on the Avalanche, scored two goals in six playoff games. His first instinct is to pass, even though he was Colorado's most accurate shooter (23.46 percent); he took 81 shots, fewer than 14 teammates.
3. Can Erik Johnson stay healthy?
Johnson is Colorado's best all-around defenseman. He plays major minutes (he averaged 25:26 of ice time last season with an NHL-high 30.7 shifts per game), defends against opponents' top lines, and provides veteran leadership. But injuries have cost the 30-year-old significant time.
Johnson has played fewer than 70 games in four of the past six seasons. He missed 18 regular-season games and all six playoff games in 2017-18 because of upper-body and knee injuries. He missed 36 games in 2016-17 with a broken leg and the final 34 games in 2014-15 with a knee injury that prevented him from playing in what would have been his first NHL All-Star Game.

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