TAMPA - Hello from a suburban Marriott in this overcast, humid city. The mattress is too soft for my always-iffy back, so it now rests sideways against the wall. The box spring is my mattress now. Tomorrow night, I get my first Airbnb experience. My host family is originally from Boston, so I plan to show up in my Tom Brady T-shirt. Let's hope the mattress is firm, and let's hope I don't sleepwalk, which has been known to happen, but very occasionally. They caught an 18-foot python the other day near the area where I'm staying, so if I happen to wander off too far from the neighborhood house I'm staying and become a midnight snack for any of the python's kin, remember me well won't you?
Anywhoo, the Avalanche will have a different lineup tonight than in recent games. For starters, captain Gabe Landeskog is back, having served his penance to Gary Bettman and the league discipline czars for being a little too rough with that delicate flower, Matthew Tkachuk.
For another, D-man Patrik Nemeth returns after a 12-game absence from a back injury. For another, Nail Yakupov and Gabriel Bourque will be healthy scratches, and so will Duncan Siemens. So, that means the Avs will play seven defensemen and, if my math is correct, only 11 forwards. Colin Wilson is back in the lineup as well, and appears to be two-thirds of a fourth line with Sven Andrighetto.
Semyon Varlamov will start, against old friend Peter Budaj.
So, these look to be the lines and D pairs:
Coach Bednar said he wants a bigger, heavier lineup to go against one of the league's best teams to this point, which explains pouring more resources into the back end. Zadorov, with Johnson, certainly is a sizable first pair, and the 6-foot-2 Nemeth brings size and a sandpapery game.
I talked some with EJ after the game, and he doesn't think morale is slipping badly in the room, despite three straight home losses.
"We've got to come out stronger to games than we have of late," he said. "We were doing that before. Need to get back to that."
Landeskog said the same thing: "Gotta skate right away, use our speed, get into the game, not ease into it."