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Avalanche Ignited; Devils Picked Apart

by Ryan Boulding / Colorado Avalanche

Like the modern-day musical poet Taylor Swift says, “Shake it off, shake it off.”

That’s what the Colorado Avalanche managed to accomplish on Thursday night when it shook off consecutive losses by beating the visiting New Jersey Devils 3-0 at Pepsi Center.

Avs head coach Patrick Roy said on Wednesday that he was looking for a spark.

His club had fallen in two straight games and in the midst of a playoff push, any prolonged stretch of losing wouldn’t be acceptable. So with the desire to light a fire under the squad, the Avalanche made some roster moves on defense.

Blueliners Chris Bigras and Nikita Zadorov were recalled from the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL, and goaltender-in-waiting Calvin Pickard got the start between the pipes—his second of the season and first on home ice.

While it may be too early to tell whether the two 20-year-old rear guards are the answer on the back end, the Avs seemed to respond to the challenge by pulling out an important win on a night where the Nashville Predators lost in overtime.

“I felt good right from the start. I felt sharp in warmups,” Pickard said following his first NHL shutout. “The first eight or nine minutes, I didn’t have much action. We got off to a great start and that was huge for our game the rest of the game. PK was huge; killed off a few good penalties. All night, it seemed like we were the more desperate team. The forwards were really going to the net. Our ‘D’ were clearing out rebounds, blocking shots. It was a full team effort, for sure.”

Colorado took control of its own destiny by producing a complete contest from start to finish, bookended by a goal from Matt Duchene just 51 seconds in and Pickard’s perfect performance.

“It was a great first shift, and it capped off with a goal,” Pickard said. “It was a beautiful goal. Dutchy made a nice move. To get that first goal right away, it gave our team some confidence. It looked like our team was playing with confidence all night.”

While the 23-year-old, Winnipeg, Manitoba, native turned aside 27 shots to blank the Devils, he was quick to credit the whole squad for the goalless game.

“It was a full team effort. Everybody really earned that shutout,” said Pickard. “It’s nice to get that first one out of the way.

“This is my second start since Christmas, and I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. The team has played very well in my two starts, in front of me. It makes my life a lot easier back there.”

Added Bigras: “I think it was a team effort today. Everyone was going right from the drop. Dutchy had a big goal at the start, and Picks played really, really great in net there for us. It was a whole team effort.”

Roy was certainly pleased after the match.

“Calvin was really good. I thought we played well in front of him as well,” the coach said. “A shutout is a shutout. Our goalie has to make some saves and he did. They were buzzing midway in the third and at the end of the third… I thought he responded well to those shots.

“We needed a good game, and that’s what we got. Our guys were sharp.”

As for the spark, the result largely speaks for itself. The Avalanche got contributions from all areas, as Duchene, Tyson Barrie (shorthanded) and Carl Soderberg (empty net) tallied; the defense combined for seven blocked shots and provided excellent danger-area support for the goalie; and Pickard did the rest.

“I feel like when we compete like we did, we look so much sharper,” said Roy.

Pickard’s shutout wasn’t the only first of the night. Barrie’s short-handed tally in the middle stanza was the rear guard’s first as well.


BIGSY’S DEBUT

Chris Bigras made his NHL debut on Thursday night, skating alongside Zach Redmond in the winning effort.

Obviously excited before the contest, Bigras admitted that there was a little anxiety when it came time for the drop of the puck.

“Little bit of nerves coming in, but after a first few shifts you kind of get your legs underneath you,” he said. “It was great to get the first one under the belt.”

The Orillia, Ontario, native said he tried to keep his mind focused early, until instinct took over and he felt more comfortable with the faster pace of the game.

“Just try not to think too much out there. Just try to go out there and play,” Bigras said. “Make your decisions, see the play, the first play, and move it. That was my objective going out there. Just kind of keep it simple at the beginning and get my legs underneath me.

“It was a great experience. It was a memory I won’t ever forget.”

The effort of both Bigras, who finished the night with two hits, one shot blocked and two penalty minutes in 13:43 of ice time, and Zadorov, who had three shots, one attempt blocked and two hits in 19:52 of time on ice, certainly didn’t go unnoticed.

“Big Z and Bigsy played very well. It was nice to have those guys. I’m comfortable playing with those guys from the minor leagues, and I thought they did a very good job,” said Pickard, who has skated with both in San Antonio this season.

“That’s what we wanted, and I think they did it,” Roy said of the fire the two players brought with them. “I thought they both played a good game”

With the first and perhaps the hardest hurdle out of the way, Bigras knows what he needs to do to stay with the Avalanche.

“I think I’ve just got to keep making simple plays, good plays and jump up into the offense and try to provide a little bit more that way,” he said.

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