Avalanche aim to continue hot start versus Capitals

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The Colorado Avalanche rolled to victories in their first four games of the season, all at home, and now they’ll see if they can keep their success going when they head to Washington for Monday’s game with the Capitals.

Colorado (4-0-0) is off to the team’s top start in six years. The Avalanche topped Calgary, Minnesota, Boston and then defeated Arizona 3-2 in overtime on Saturday.

In that game, rookie goalie Pavel Francouz made his NHL debut and finished with 34 saves. He is the backup to Philipp Grubauer, who backed up goalie Braden Holtby during his time with the Capitals.

Plus, Grubauer won the starting job heading into the 2017-18 playoffs, but Holtby took it back and led Washington to the Stanley Cup. But the win from Francouz capped off a strong four-game homestand and sent the Avalanche off on a six-game road trip feeling good about things.

“We had a great time here,” Francouz told the team’s website. “We were getting the best support here from the fans, and it helped us a lot, so we were able to win four straight games at the start of the season. It always helps when you win at the start of the season because you get your confidence and everything. It was huge.”

Grubauer took care of the first three games and has a 2.34 goals-against average and is playing well so far.

The Avalanche have another former Capital in Andre Burakovsky, and he has also started well. He scored the game-winning goal in each of the past two games and likely is looking forward to seeing his old mates — as is Grubauer, who probably gets the start.

On the injury front, J.T. Compher has been out for two consecutive games with a lower-body injury. No word as of Sunday about his status for this game.

Washington comes to this contest after beating Dallas 4-1 on the road on Saturday. That’s the first time the Caps have won in Dallas in a regulation game since 1995. That victory broke a three-game losing streak for the Capitals.

John Carlson, who is coming off a strong season, is off to a great start again this year. He posted one goal and one assist against the Stars, and now the defenseman has four multi-point games in the first six.

Overall, Carlson tops NHL defensemen in scoring with two goals and eight assists for 10 points. Plus, he’s scored at least two points in three straight games.

Washington also has gotten some recent help from Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is back after serving a three-game suspension to start the season. He has scored three points in three games (two goals, one assist) and is trying to come back from an inconsistent 2018-19 season and playoffs.

The Capitals have had problems holding leads in the third period, but the defense and rookie goalie Ilya Samsonov made everything stand up against Dallas. Samsonov is thought to be the goalie who will take over for Holtby as the veteran’s contract expires after this season.

Tom Wilson also is helping on offense. He had a goal and an assist in the Dallas win. The Caps also can find some help on defense when Michal Kempny comes back from the hamstring injury that’s sidelined him since late last season.

Kempny is valuable to the Washington defense, maybe more than the team realized, and the Caps played poorly in their first-round loss to Carolina last spring without him. But the team has said Kempny should be back shortly.

“We’re playing pretty good hockey,” Wilson told The Washington Post. “We’re putting ourselves in a position we want to be in throughout the game.”

–Field Level Media

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