CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Control what you can control.
That's a lesson for both life and sport, and it's a mantra that the Colorado Avalanche has to embrace this week more than ever.
When a team struggles, trade rumors are as inevitable as a Zamboni making the ice fresh at intermission. They're nothing new to the Avs at this point, but that doesn't mean it is easy to handle, especially with the March 1 NHL trade deadline very nearly upon them
"I think when you approach the deadline, in the last couple days there's a little bit of nervous energy and anxiety around the room, for certain. And that's probably for everyone, every team, even the teams that are in the playoffs because they're anxious to see if they're going to get something or do something as well," head coach Jared Bednar said following Monday's practice. "You know what, I've talked with a handful of our guys, and they know the situation. I think our guys, the ones that are dealing with some of those rumors, are mature guys and have been through it multiple times before, in most cases.
"Again, it's outside of our locker room. We try to talk more about just controlling what we can control. That starts with our daily routine, practicing today. Now we're going to travel. It's a couple more days. So I think the end is near, and I think that's a good thing."
Video: Coach Bednar's post-practice press conference
This time of year, looking forward to anything down the road is tough. There's just so much uncertainty ahead, planning for anything beyond the next day or two is exhausting.
"It's hard to look past three days right now. You can't really look past that because I just don't know where I'm going to be. So we'll see what happens," center Matt Duchene said. "Right now, I'm just focusing on going to Philly tonight and preparing for the game tomorrow."
For the seven-year veteran of the Avs, focusing on playing the game is easy. It's when there's downtime that the future is more obfuscated.
"It's hard, but it's harder when you're away from the rink," he said. "At home on days off, your mind wanders and whatever, but when I'm at the rink and around the guys, it's easy to get immersed in that and just get ready for the game tomorrow."
"Hopefully these next couple days will go by quick, and I think all we can really focus on is Philly and how we prepare for that game," said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. "It's easier said than done. I don't read much. I don't watch much. Really the only things that I really hear are things that people text or call me about, and usually my closest friends and family know not to do that unless it's something really important. So really I'm not in the loop much. I don't read that stuff. To me, it's more outside noise as far as rumors go. If something was to go down, I'm sure I'd hear about it. So the focus is on beating the Flyers tomorrow."
Video: Landeskog on trade deadline, road trip
Colorado took flight after practice, shipping off for a three-game road swing that opens at the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday evening. That's the only thing on the radar for the squad at the moment, and players insulating themselves from the chatter and directing their mental effort toward what they control is all they can do.
"It's important," said Landeskog. "I don't feel the need to read all that. I don't feel the need to watch NHL Network all the time and all that. So it's more of just, I got other things going on and better things to focus on. We'll see what happens, really, and hopefully these next couple days go by quick. I know a bunch of us in this room have always had a tough time with seeing our names in rumors and whatnot, but that's the name of the business."
"I think with us, we've been dealing with the rumors for quite some time. So that's all they are. I think that our guys have done a good job handling the outside noise that's been coming our way," Bednar said. "So I don't expect us to be any different tomorrow, to be honest."
Next up is another game to prove that this team is figuring out the right way to play, the way that brings positive results, both for the organization and for the individual. Putting one foot in front of the next is the best way to skate away with confidence and forward progression.
Video: Duchene on trade deadline, road trip
"We can keep improving as a team and keep working at all the things we've worked on all season long. Getting more consistency out of our group and our team, I think, is one key," Bednar said of what he wants to see on this three-game swing. "There are a lot of individual meetings going on in our locker room with our guys, and the system's been set. We know what we're supposed to be doing and playing it, but we're continuing to teach in smaller groups and working with our guys, especially some of our young guys, on different situations in the game and mistakes we make and things that we do well as well."
Building off of Saturday's dominant 5-3 win over the visiting Buffalo Sabres is another objective.
"Now we've seen what it takes for us to be successful and all the hard work it takes, and we need to be a four-line team to do that," Landeskog said. "That's what happened against the Sabres. We were rolling four lines, six 'D' were involved and [Jeremy Smith] did a great job in the back end. So we know we need everybody on board to be able to beat anybody, especially the Flyers in the playoff hunt."
Sure, being in this position at this time of year is certainly less than ideal for the Avalanche, but there are still things to look forward to. Remember, you can only control what you can control.
"It's three games. It will be fun. I like playing up north, obviously back close to home in Ottawa there," said Duchene, a native of Haliburton, Ontario. "It will be fun. It's always fun playing back in Ontario. So I always look forward to those games. We don't have them too often. Usually I get to see some family and friends. I'm looking forward to that and just trying to enjoy every day. We're all lucky to do what we do, and there are parts of the business that are tough, but you kind of just roll with it and go from there."