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Avs host Golden Knights for pivotal West Division series

Colorado and Vegas will kick off their two-game series at 7 p.m. Thursday night at Ball Arena.

DENVER — The two best teams in the NHL's West Division are about to meet for a pivotal two-game series.

Both the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights can take over the top spot in the standings beginning tonight at Ball Arena.

"It'll be a great feather in our cap to pass them here and get ahead of them," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. "They don't have a lot of weaknesses in their game. It's going to come down to competitiveness, detail, execution, and discipline."

The Avs are playing their best hockey when they have their top net-minder. Philipp Grubauer will start in net tonight. But behind him, it's a bit of a struggle.

"The jitters are out of the way for Johannson. Obviously coming to a new team, he's really excited, and we're really excited to have him," forward Logan O'Connor said. "You can see him getting more comfortable around the guys, slowly. It's a big adjustment for him coming from Buffalo, so it's nice to see him getting more exposed to the guys there."

While a lot of the attention is being paid to the problems in net, the Avs are shifting their focus to the next line of defense.

Bowen Byrem is back in the lineup tonight, and the team can now rely on a healthy Cale Makar.

But while those two were sidelined, defenseman Samuel Girard has been stepping up his game.

"He's improving every year. I do view him as one of our leaders, even though he's only 22-years-old, and I think he can still get better," Bednar said.

Added Girard: "My job is to get better every game, and that's my goal."

Puck drop for Thursday night's game is slated for 7 p.m.

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