CHICAGO--After any loss, a team's response the following game is key to both its short and long-term success. After a contest in which the players called their performance "embarrassing," that goes twofold.
The Colorado Avalanche will look to try and wipe away the sour taste of Tuesday's 5-1 defeat to the Nashville Predators this evening at United Center against the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that's beginning to find its own groove.
"I think they're dangerous. They've got guys that can make plays and if you make a mistake, they'll make you pay for it," said head coach Jared Bednar of the Avs' opponent. "They're getting traction now. They're starting to find their game. It's a big test for us. Our game, it has been a little bit in and out and we need to make sure that we're on it tonight. Otherwise, it will be dangerous for us."
The Blackhawks have won three games in a row and are coming off their own 5-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.
Colorado has played well against Chicago in recent years, but the team's success tonight might begin and end with how it starts the contest.
"We need our guys to work and compete at a level that can give us a chance to win. And then not just a short-term response tonight, but long term we got to find a way to have a better start," Bednar said. "We've only scored first in two of eight games. First periods, finding our game right away, getting physical, playing with that passion and energy, that is where it all starts for us. If you have that, then you're going to give yourself a chance systematically to do the right things."
For the players, there are no excuses for having a slow start out of the gate.
"We got to be ready to go. It's as simple as that," said defenseman Fedor Tyutin, who will be back in the Colorado lineup after missing four games with a groin injury. "Everybody individually has got to prepare themselves and be ready to go when the puck drops. Everybody's first shift is very important."
If there is a bright spot from the poor starts is that the Avs have battled back from the deficits in four of those games, tying the score later in the contest and have even pulled out two victories.
However, despite showing the ability to battle back, it's not a situation the players want to constantly be in.
"I think a few of the games lately, we haven't been ready," forward Rene Bourque said. "Get down behind early and it's hard to fight back. It all starts with just shooting pucks on net early, getting to as many pucks, a lot of traffic and hopefully banging in a rebound."
Colorado has had success at the United Center before, as its won five of the last six games in Chicago and is now 7-3-0 in its last 10 visits.
An early goal is the perfect way to give the road team an extra boost and quiet the crowd of more than 20,000 expected this evening.
Game time is set for 6:30 p.m. MT. It will be televised locally on Altitude, while the radio broadcast of the contest will be on 92.5 FM The Wolf and at ColoradoAvalanche.com
CHICAGO STILL SIGNIFICANT TO BOURQUE
Avalanche forward Rene Bourque got his start in the NHL with the Blackhawks in 2005-06 as an unsigned free agent out of college, and the city still has meaning to him.
"I always enjoy it. It's the first team I played for," Bourque said. "I live here (in the offseason). It's my hometown now. I've been living here for 12 years, so it's nice to come back. I like to play in this building. It's always a good atmosphere. Obviously, the Hawks are a good team, so it's tough games in here."
The Lac La Biche, Alberta, native went to school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, which is just over two hours northwest of the city, making the transition down to Illinois fairly easy.
"I ended up signing with the Hawks, and all my buddies from college ended up moving here for work after school. So it just became home," he said.
Wednesday night offered a unique experience for Bourque, as he got to be in the city to witness the Chicago Cubs end a 108-year World Series drought. The Cubs beat the Indians 8-7 in 10 innings in Cleveland.
"It was awesome. I think very well deserved, very long wait," the right wing said. "It was just cool to be a part of it and actually be here when they won. Obviously, they've been through a lot of heartbreak to finally get one. It's going to be awesome for the city. I can't wait to see the parade."
Colorado will also make a few more slight adjustments to its bottom six for tonight's contest in the Windy City.
Blake Comeau and Andreas Martinsen will switch spots on the lines, with Comeau set to play alongside John Mitchell and Joe Colborne while Martinsen joins a combo with Rene Bourque and Carl Soderberg.
Fedor Tyutin, who will be in the lineup for his first game in two weeks, will be paired on defense with Tyson Barrie in a duo whose primary job will be to move the puck quickly out of the defensive zone.
"Always good to play when your partner can do lots of things on his own like skate with the puck, make good passes," Tyutin said of playing with Barrie. "It just makes an easier life for me."
Patrick Wiercioch, who had been on the backend with Barrie for the past couple games, will now be paired with Francois Beauchemin. Colorado's top defensive combination of Erik Johnson and Nikita Zadorov will remain unchanged.
Eric Gelinas is the odd man out on defense and will join Cody McLeod as a healthy scratch this evening.
Mikhail Grigorenko - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - Jarome Iginla
Rene Bourque - Carl Soderberg - Andreas Martinsen
Joe Colborne - John Mitchell - Blake Comeau
Nikita Zadorov - Erik Johnson
Fedor Tyutin - Tyson Barrie
Patrick Wiercioch - Francois Beauchemin