The acquisition of goaltender Devan Dubnyk was supposed to provide an insurance policy for the red-hot, league-leading Colorado Avalanche.
With Philipp Grubauer sidelined for a couple of weeks after being put on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list, Dubnyk will be relied upon heavily for an Avalanche team realistically with a Stanley Cup title in its sights, starting with Friday’s home clash with the Los Angeles Kings in Denver.
Grubauer, who was tied for the NHL lead with 25 wins, five shutouts and 34 games played entering Thursday’s action and is among the leaders in goals-against average and save percentage, must quarantine for 10 days and won’t be able to resume team activities for at least two weeks. Therefore, Dubnyk, acquired from the San Jose Sharks last week, will step into the breach.
“I’m excited,” Dubnyk said. “I think anybody will tell you, when you start to play games consecutively, more and more, you’re going to start feeling better and better. … So I think it’s going to be a fun opportunity, and I’m sure when the games start rolling, it will feel normal again.”
Dubnyk made a positive first impression on his new team, stopping 31 shots during a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues in his Avalanche debut on Wednesday.
“He made the saves he needed to make,” coach Jared Bednar said. “To be able to come in with a new team, first game and have that performance, I was proud of his game and I think that he’s only going to get better as he spends more time with us and continues to put more work in.”
The Avalanche are riding a four-game winning streak, are the first team this season to reach 30 wins and — thanks to a 17-1-2 run — have recorded the most points (64) through 43 games in franchise history.
The Kings are moving in the other direction heading into a pair of road clashes with the Avalanche. They are coming off a 6-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday, have lost two straight and have just three wins in their last 12 games (3-9-0).
Even so, with the Kings in a rebuild, the losses aren’t as big of an issue to coach Todd McLellan as much as how his team has executed has been.
“At times we’re overworking. We’re like kids on a soccer field. We just chase the puck all over the place, and the open man is killing us, so sometimes we’re overworking,” McLellan said. “Sometimes, we’re out of position. Sometimes you might not be good enough in certain situations, and we’re fighting all of that right now.
Vegas took advantage of that poor coverage, not just in the defensive zone but with goals resulting from odd-man rushes up ice.
“We have to help our goalies out,” said forward Trevor Moore, whose two goals against Vegas marked his first career multi-goal game. “Our goalies have been great all year, and we can’t be letting these odd-man rushes and giving them free looks.”
Facing the Avalanche, who are the league’s most prolific team offensively and third best in goals against, won’t be an easy task for the struggling Kings, but McLellan expects better than what he just saw against an equally impressive Vegas squad.
“We need a little bit of an adjustment there,” he said. “We’ve worked hard for a number of months right now, we’ve worked hard and we can’t give it back. We may not win as many games as we want, but … bring the effort.”
–Field Level Media