The Colorado Avalanche is taking on the Nashville Predators tonight at Pepsi Center, and while the visiting squad comes to town with a 2-5-1 record, the Avs know that it doesn't reflect what the Predators are capable of.
"They're a good team. So maybe they've struggled to find their rhythm a little bit here early," head coach Jared Bednar said. "We went into Washington a week or so ago and their big guns were off the board, and we saw what happened there when we weren't ready to go. So for us, we're looking to have a start. We'd like to play with a lead, keep them down if we can. Just getting to our game early and making sure we're ready to go and we're prepared to play an intense skating game. We have to be ready to check.
"This is a dangerous team, and we can't give them any room out there."
Nashville is a team loaded with firepower that hasn't quite found the ability to score at even strength, but it also owns the top-ranked power play in the league. Meanwhile, the Avalanche has been more than solid while at a man disadvantage, shutting down 15 of the last 16 opportunities.
Video: Coach Bednar talks about facing the Preds
In order to continue the trend, the home team wants to jam up the Predators and keep them on their heels.
"Stay out of the box and move our feet down low, try and draw some penalties," forward Matt Duchene said of what will bring success on special teams. "We want to keep them kind of stalled. They're a good team with a lot of offensive upside, and we want to make sure that we're not feeding into that game tonight."
For Joe Colborne, a forward oft tasked with quieting opposing power plays, the situation also involves knowing who is where on the ice.
"We know they're dangerous. They have a lot of skill on the backend, a lot of skill on their top couple lines," he said. "You have to be always aware of where [P.K.] Subban is on the power play. He's got the big shot. He really kind of brings an explosive element. Then [Ryan] Johansen, he is one of the better dishers in the league. [Mike] Ribeiro has some great vision.
"So shut down the lanes, don't give them time and space and try and attack as much as we can on the break-ins and don't let them set up."
Video: Joe Colborne on facing the Predators
Success on the penalty kill follows on the heels of early struggles, but the team has discussed areas of improvement and then gone out and implemented the changes.
"We talked about with our penalty kill [that] faceoffs were an issue early, our clears. Some of our details were off," said Bednar. "I just think for the guys, it means a little bit more to them now. So they're digging in a little bit. They understand that it can help us have success, and it has over the past couple games."
Colorado has been starting to surge as of late and will look to keep that momentum going again tonight. The club has outshot its opponents in the previous two contests, and Bednar said that is indicative of an increased attention to detail on the ice.
"I also think just the mentality, having a shot mentality when we get into the offensive zone [has contributed]. Our 'D' are shooting the puck more, guys are throwing more pucks to the net and getting a little more traffic there," Bednar said. "We're coming up with a few of the rebounds and chances we miss and then we're repeating that. There's a determination there too, I think. When you're putting up those types of shots, then you're a more determined group than when you're not."
"Get pucks to the net, become more shot oriented, I think," Colborne said of what has changed. "We've been working on that, and we're starting to see the results. The more times we can get pucks to the net, the better we'll be."
One player thriving recently is Duchene. The 25-year-old center has scored five goals and seven points in his past four games and says it all comes down to staying calm and consistent.
Video: Duchene on his recent play
"I think it's just kind of an even-keeled mentality. I think you know that even if it's a frustrating game where nothing is really going, you're still going to get one or two looks. So you just got to stay ready for those opportunities," he said. "You get a great pass like I did from [Mikhail Grigorenko] in Phoenix and are able to put one in and then you're feeling pretty good the rest of the way. It's just kind of that momentum, you try to keep it, but when you're not feeling that momentum you just got to stay calm and know that you're going to get an opportunity and you just got to be ready."
Duchene attributes his early goalscoring to playing at a highly competitive level at the World Cup before the NHL season began.
"I think confidence-wise, [it helped] big time," Duchene admitted. "It was an adjustment coming back, obviously playing with a totally different team, new systems, new everything. So it took me a little bit maybe to feel comfortable, but it came pretty quick. The big thing is now we're 4-3 and we just want to stay above .500."
The Avalanche is entering a stretch of the season where games are coming nearly every other night. There are only two breaks of two days between matches this month, and there's even a back-to-back set--the club's third this year--coming up this weekend. Perhaps daunting on paper, this pace is one the players truly enjoy.
"It lets you get into the swing of things and you keep your game shape," Colborne said. "It's easier to kind of get into the rhythm of things."
The puck drops at 7 p.m. MT at Pepsi Center and tickets are still available.
It's that time of year again. Everyone's (least) favorite month of men's facial fashion has finally arrived.
Movember is upon us, and the Colorado Avalanche is again taking part in the mustache mayhem. Ten players will be sporting lip sweaters for the next 30 days, looking dapper or struggling to string together some facial hair, in support of men's health initiatives, Hockey Fights Cancer and the November Foundation.
"It's going to be ugly for me," said Colborne, who official started growing his 'stache today. "A few of the guys are cheating already. [Calvin Pickard] has had his for about a month already, so that's not fair, especially for a guy like me who it will take most of the month just so people can actually see it."
The Avs are looking for your support and figure a muzzy, no matter how big or small or soft or tough, is a good trade off for raising funds and awareness.
"It's for a great cause. It will be fun," Colborne said. "I'm going to be on some other guys to pick it up and join."
For more information and to find links to donate, visit the team's special Movember page.