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Avs Have Opportunity Versus Capitals

Team can build toward something better

by Ryan Boulding @rboulding /

Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar has been looking for his team to start building toward a better future for a while now. 

He recently admitted that keeping the team focused on a task during the final stretch of a bad season was paramount, but the squad has yet to string together successes in that area.

Bednar is looking for the same thing tonight as the Avs host the Washington Capitals at Pepsi Center.

"Need a complete game. We have too many lapses in our game right now. One of the things that we really have to cure is our penalties. If you look at the Calgary game, we took a penalty in the first shift of the game, and they scored on it," Bednar said following the team's morning skate on Wednesdaty. "Then we started to claw back into that game in the third and the puck bounced on [Calvin Pickard] and he puts it over the glass and they end of getting another one, which kind of put the game out of reach for us there.

"So trying to find a way to stay out of the box, making sure we're skating, not taking any stick penalties are going to be keys for us. Getting that 60-minute effort from our guys is something that we need to have if we want to give ourselves a chance to win tonight."

Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar after morning skate

Building on a positive is more important now than ever for the Avalanche, which has lost six in a row and is facing the best team in hockey. For the team, it's a way to start reproducing good habits. For an individual, it's a way to kickstart production.

A guy like Sven Andrighetto has done just that.

"I'm obviously trying to do the best I can, and it's been working out well for myself lately. I have good chemistry with my linemates right now, and it's fun to play with these guys," said Andrighetto, who has five goals and nine points in 12 contests since being acquired on March 1. "[I'm] just doing the little things right. I know it sounds cheesy but for me personally, I don't think about the points or goals or anything. If I play the right way, play with my teammates, together, and create offense, the puck is going to go in."

Andrighetto is the only member of the Avs to have scored in the previous two contests, and while it is nice to have personal triumph, the desire for the team to win is what matters most to him.

"Some days it's another guy who is going to score and I'm not, or anyone else is going to step it up. So it doesn't really matter who scores the goals. We have to score goals as a group to win hockey games, and at the end of the day it doesn't really matter who scores," he said. "We want to build moving forward. We still have this season right now. We have seven games to go, and we want to win as many as we can and go from there."

 Video: Sven Andrighetto has been scoring goals in bunches

So each day brings a reset to it, a way to shake off the bad and focus on working for the good. Wednesday is no different.

"Obviously, we're in a terrible spot. You have to go out there, and you have to work hard and create those good habits and give yourself a chance to win. Nobody wants to lose five games in a row. We've got seven games left, and let's try and mix in some wins here and feel good about ourselves a little bit," said forward John Mitchell, who will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Calgary. "You try and be verbal in the room, in between periods, on the bench.

"Pick guys up when something might go wrong, when they're getting down or whatever, but you try and do all those little things, and then at the same time you got to show your teammates that you have that desire to go out there and win the game. Whether it's making hits, taking hits to make plays, blocking shots, all those sorts of things that are going to inevitably add up to a 'W'."

Mitchell and the rest of his club know that taking on the Capitals presents the challenge of all challenges at this point in the campaign, but it offers an opportunity as well.

Video: John Mitchell on finishing the season strong

"They're a great team, and in order for us to have a chance to win this game we have to bring our A-plus game. If we don't bring that, it's going to be a real tough feat for us to win. So we'll stack ourselves up and see how we do," Mitchell said. "That division is very tight. So I don't think they want to relinquish the first seed that they have. They're going to come out strong. I know they played last night. Maybe we're a little bit more rested. So we got to certainly try and take it to them the first 5-10 minutes of the first period. Get lots of pucks to the net and hopefully bang in a couple."

"They are probably the best team in the league. They were when we played them in October, too, and it will be a good measuring stick for us," added defenseman Erik Johnson. "Hopefully, we come out and play with some jump and play the way we're capable of, otherwise it's going to be a long night. They need all the points they can get to run away with the division, so hopefully we can make it hard on them."

As a defenseman, Johnson knows what to expect from players like Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie.

"They're such a good team top to bottom. They don't give you a whole lot, and they get contributions up and down their lineup," he said. "Their top line, I think each guy has 30 goals. They've been doing it all year, and we have to make sure that we're ready to go and we're playing a strong game defensively, first and foremost, and hopefully the offense comes from there."

Video: Erik Johnson on the Avs' recent play


Coach Bednar is making some minor tweaks to his lineup for Wednesday's contest, which includes having rookie J.T. Compher center a line with Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog on the wings. 

"Mitchell is going to come in, [Joe] Colborne is going to come out, and we're going to start the way we finished last game with Compher centering Duchene and Landeskog," Bednar said. "I kind of liked their third period the other night. They were dangerous, had a couple good looks to the net, we're making some plays. So we're going to try and do that; move Dutchy to the wing and put [Mikhail Grigorenko] there as the third-line center." 

Calvin Pickard will get the start in net.

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