The Colorado Avalanche is hoping that its recent four-day break has rinsed away any bad taste from its current losing streak and will help the club build a new one in a positive direction.
Colorado will find out if the break did any good tonight at Pepsi Center as it hosts the Dallas Stars, the club that began its current three-game slide on Oct. 14.
Maybe the best way to erode any negative thoughts from a skid is through a win, but the Avalanche didn't have that luxury after falling 4-3 to the St. Louis Blues in its last contest on Thursday night. That is a tough way to go into a stretch of four days between games, but the pause in the schedule actually might have helped the Avs to reset.
Colorado suffered four injuries versus the Blues, and the time away from game action helped in the players' recovery process and allowed the club to focus on its own play.
"We're trying to nurse some of those guys back to health. A few days off the ice can help do that, and then we dug in for a couple days and accomplished some good things," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. "I really liked our practice yesterday, so hopefully that spurs us on tonight to have the outcome that we want."
The goal against St. Louis was to not let the losing streak get to three, and that purpose remains the same this evening against Dallas, though now it is not to make it four defeats in a row.
"This is huge. We wanted to bounce back after we lost two, and we came up a little short," said defenseman Tyson Barrie. "We're well rested. We had a couple good days of practice, and we're ready to go."
Video: Barrie on facing the Stars
So how do the Avs get back on track?
It's two-fold for Bednar. First, its making sure the team plays a "full 60"--not taking off shifts and keeping the intensity high for the entire contest. Second, it is focusing on the play at hand and not worrying about what will happen in five minutes or the next period.
"That 60-minute process is key, and that is what we have to focus on. The details and the way we want to play and our identity for 60 minutes," Bednar said. "To me, you can't worry about the result. For me, it's about that process and starting the game right and continuing to push. A more narrow focus, a shift-to-shift focus, I think can help us. If we can do that, we'll give ourselves a good chance to win. We've proven it so far this year."
The Avalanche was riding a three-game winning streak prior to falling 3-1 at Dallas 10 days ago. The Stars were 1-3-0 prior to that outing but have now won four in a row and are only three points off from the division lead.
"It is one of those things that you need a short memory on both sides of it," said Matt Duchene of getting the club back to its winning ways. "It's the hardest thing to do. You can't ride the roller coaster. I think for us right now is that we got to get back to pulling their weight, playing like they can. Hopefully that four-day break allowed us to forget and get that bad taste out of our mouth from the last three games, and we can reset and start over."
Colorado had three practices and one complete day off in its time between contests, and the players are itching to get back into a contest that counts in the standings.
"It felt like a long time. I don't think I've ever had a weekend off during the season other than a scheduled break," MacKinnon said. "We're excited. It's obviously a big game for us. We're on a little skid after a good start to the season and a couple injuries, but we got to make up for it tonight."
The Avalanche's matchup is its second of five contests versus the Stars, and the season series between these Central Division foes will actually wrap up fairly quick. Colorado plays Dallas again at home on Nov. 22 and Dec. 3 before closing their set in Texas on Jan. 13, two weeks before the NHL All-Star Weekend.
DOUBLE CENTURY MARK FOR BARBERIO
Avalanche defenseman Mark Barberio is set to appear in his 200th career NHL game and his 41st in Colorado this evening.
Selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the sixth round of the 2008 entry draft, Barberio played his first five pro seasons in the organization but joined his hometown Montreal Canadiens for the 2015-16 campaign.
He spent a season and a half in Montreal before being claimed on waivers by the Avalanche on Feb. 2. Barberio played in each of the final 34 games with Colorado last year, totaling nine points (two goals and seven assists).
The 27-year-old will likely be paired on defense this evening with 22-year-old Chris Bigras, who returns to the Avs lineup after being a healthy scratch on Thursday.
Sven Andrighetto - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - Nail Yakupov
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau
A.J. Greer - Alexander Kerfoot - Gabriel Bourque
Nikita Zadorov - Erik Johnson
Anton Lindholm - Tyson Barrie
Mark Barberio - Chris Bigras