DENVER – Unlike a year ago, when a second-half meltdown sent the Colorado Avalanche
tumbling to 29th place in the NHL standings, the team is making a serious push this season to earn a Western Conference playoff position.
The Avalanche took a three-game winning streak and 6-2-2 run into Monday night's game against the Anaheim Ducks
at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche had 68 points – matching last season's total – and trailed eighth-place Dallas by two points and seventh-place San Jose by three with 19 games to play.
"This year we're about winning," Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman said after acquiring left wing Jamie McGinn
and two prospects from the San Jose Sharks
in exchange for forwards TJ Galiardi
and Daniel Winnik
, along with a seventh-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.
The trade was the Avalanche's second in a week, following the acquisition of right wing Steve Downie
from Tampa Bay in exchange for defenseman Kyle Quincey
, who was sent to Detroit for a first-round pick.
Like Downie, who has found a home on a potent unit with Gabriel Landeskog
and Ryan O'Reilly
, McGinn adds an element of grit the Avalanche had lacked on the forward lines. McGinn, 23, will be a restricted free agent after the season. He had 12 goals, 12 assists and 26 penalty minutes in 61 games with the Sharks, along with a team-high 137 hits.
McGinn, who is 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, is expected to arrive in Denver on Tuesday afternoon and take part in his first Avalanche practice on Wednesday. He'll likely replace Winnik as a third-liner and penalty killer.
"He's a two-way player; he can play 200 feet of the ice," Sherman said of McGinn. "He's leading his team in hits and he's another 23-year-old player we are adding to the lineup. When you look at the element he brings along with Steve Downie
, we're shoring up our offense. Downie obviously brings an element of both grit and skill. Jamie McGinn
is another piece up front.
"The ability to add these type of players at this time of year shows, in combination of how we've played over the last week … we're the youngest team in the League. So when you have the ability at this time of year to play meaningful games, it's only going to help the progression of these young kids."
The Avalanche has been getting healthier up front, as Matt Duchene
played in his fifth game Monday after missing 20 games with a knee injury. Peter Mueller
returned to the lineup after sitting out six games with a torso injury and captain Milan Hejduk
was back after missing one game with a groin injury.
"We certainly feel good about what's going on," Sherman said. "The last week has shown to that. But the last couple weeks, we've been playing pretty good hockey. In the big picture, it's going to be an exciting 19 games here down the stretch.”
The Avalanche also picked up forwards Mike Connolly
, 22, and Michael Sgarbossa
, 19, in the deal.
Connolly signed with San Jose as an undrafted free agent on April 15, 2011 after playing three years at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He was in his first season with the Worcester Sharks in the American Hockey League, where he had 10 goals and 20 assists in 40 games. He will report to the Cleveland-based Lake Erie Monsters in the AHL.
Sgarbossa signed with the Sharks as a free agent on Sept. 10, 2010 and is the Ontario Hockey League's second-leading scorer with 84 points (41 goals, 43 assists) in 57 games for the Sudbury Wolves. He leads the OHL with 15 power-play goals.
"Any time you can bring in two prospects, that's a future move," Sherman said. "The fact that we're getting an NHL caliber player (in McGinn) with good character and he's got some NHL experience who bangs and plays 200 feet of the ice, we just feel we've improved our hockey club. We feel we have a better hockey team for today and going forward as well, and adding those two prospects adds to our overall depth in the organization."
Winnik, 26, had five goals, 13 assists and 42 penalty minutes in 63 games with the Avalanche. He will be an unrestricted free agent July 1. Galiardi, 23, had 8 goals, six assists and 47 penalty minutes in 55 games. He will be a restricted free agent.