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NHL: Colorado Avalanche @ Boston Bruins preview

The reigning Stanley Cup Champions Colorado Avalanche will aim to put an end to Boston Bruins' all-time NHL record 13 game unbeaten home streak to begin a season on Sunday.

If they are to do it, though, they will need to do so without several key members of their team.

Injuries mounting up

The Avalanche have been hampered by injuries all season long and while Valeri Nichushkin (ankle), Bowen Byram (lower body) and Darren Helm (hip) returned to light skating this week, none will be ready in time for the heavyweight clash with the Bruins.

The trio join a lengthily injury list which also includes Captain Gabriel Landeskog (knee), Evan Rodrigues (lower body) plus several depth players.

Despite their injury woes, the Avalanche have shown their championship metal and managed a 13-7-1 record, which ranks third in the Central Division.

This includes an 8-4-0 road record which will be sternly tested by the 13-0-0 Bruins.

Coloardo are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games, in large part due to their three remaining superstars staying healthy and in form.

Nathan MacKinnon leads the team for points with 33 (eight goals, 25 assists), and Mikko Rantanen is top for goals with 14 and second for points with 31.

Explosive defenceman Cale Makar is third with 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) and is +140 favourite to win the Norris trophy as the league's best blue-liner for the second consecutive time.

Record-breakers

Before the Bruins made it 13 with a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in their last game at TD Garden, the NHL record for longest winning streak at home to begin an NHL season was set by the 1963/64 Chicago Blackhawks and equalled by the Florida Panthers last season.

Under new coach Jim Montgomery, the Bruins have been unstoppable not just at home but overall too and lead the NHL with a .864 points-percentage (19-3-0).

They have scored the most goals in the league (3.96 average per-game), and conceded the least (2.18 average per-game) and have 10 players with 10 points or more.

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Colorado have seven players with more than 10 points and despite their injuries have managed to maintain solid numbers at both ends of the ice, ranking seventh for average goals for (3.43) and sixth in goals against (2.67).

Red-hot powerplays

Colorado have the NHL's best powerplay, converting 33.8% of their opportunities with the Bruins second best at 30.1%.

It means both teams will do their best to stay out of the penalty box, but especially the Avalanche whose penalty kill is a lowly 76.3% (22nd). Boston's kill is an excellent 83.5% and third in the NHL.

Another area where the Bruins have a significant advantage going into the game is on the face-off dot where their 55.8 winning-percentage ranks third and is way ahead of the Avalanche's 43.9%, which is the second worst in the league.

Goalies in form

While each team has been in good scoring form, goals won't be quite so easy to come by on Sunday as each team has goalies in outstanding shape.

Bruins' Linus Ullmark (13-1-0) tops the NHL with a .935 save-percentage and 2.00 goals-against-average (GAA), and Avalanche's Alexandar Georgiev (11-3-0) isn't too far behind with a .922 save percentage and 2.58 GAA.

Their back-ups have also provided a solid effort when called upon with Boston's Jeremy Swayman (5-2-0) posting a .902 save percentage) and 2.60 GAA and Colorado's Pavel Francouz (2-4-0) has a .914 save percentage and 2.70 GAA.

Ulmark is +650 to win the Vezina Trophy as goalie of the season, and Georgiev +1800

Championship measuring stick

While the Avalanche will be missing a couple of key figures, the Bruins see the heavyweight clash as an opportunity to assess their Stanley Cup title aspirations and victory for either will do wonders for their confidence.

Colorado ended a 21-year wait for the Cup last season, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games to end their three-peat dream.

Boston were last crowned champions in 2011 but aside from a Final defeat in 2019 haven't come particularly close to earning the ultimate honour again.

Veterans thriving

Captain Patrice Bergeron, 37, Brad Marchand, 34, and David Krejci, 36, who returned to the Bruins following a year in his native Czech Republic, are the only remaining players from that 2011 championship side and are clearly thriving on an unexpected opportunity to try and win another cup together.

Bergeron is second on Boston for points (19; nine goals, 10 assists), Krejci third (18; eight goals, 10 assists) and Marchand fourth (18; seven goals, 11 assists).

The trio all sit behind 26-year-old David Pastrnak whose 32 points ranks seventh in the NHL and 14 goals sits sixth.

Boston are -165 to be victorious on Sunday and +550 to win the Stanley Cup. Colorado are +145 to win the game and +525 to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

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