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Avalanche Looks to Stay Offensive vs. Bruins

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

It could be easy for the Colorado Avalanche to look at the winless Boston Bruins and put an emphasis on doing what other teams have done to beat the Atlantic Division squad.

That is not the Avs' style however, and it hasn't been since Patrick Roy took over as head coach.

In the two-plus seasons that Roy has been at the helm, he has stressed "worrying about yourself," meaning not necessarily concentrating on how to stop the other team but instead focusing on the team game that will ultimately lead to a win.

Luckily for Colorado, its style has also been offensive minded—something Boston has struggled to defend during its 0-3-0 start. The Bruins have suffered losses of 6-2, 4-2 and 6-3, and are off to their worst start since the 1999-00 campaign.

"We know their record. No one likes to be in that position," Roy said of facing Boston tonight at Pepsi Center. "It's not our business. Our business is how we're going to play tonight and that is what we're going to worry about."

The Avs have scored 10 goals so far in the young season, the most through the first two games since the team relocated to Denver in 1995. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Roy is confident in his offense, which has allowed him to match any of his four forward combinations against any of the four sent out by the opposing team.

"I like our mix right now. I can't even split the fourth line because they are playing so well. We put them against the top line last game at home against Dallas," he said. "It's given me that flexibility. You know we want to create more offense, put the Dutchy line or the MacKinnon line against the third or fourth line of the other team."

A big source of that production has come from the power play, which has scored four goals and leads the NHL in the early going at a 66.7-percent success rate.

"I think for us, the power play is feeling good and confident right now," said Gabriel Landeskog. "We want to stay with it and keep control of the puck, keep our entries clean and make sure we win those loose battles in their zone, which is key to a good power play."

Sustained success with the man advantage will once again be important for the Avs versus a team looking to find any way possible to end its losing streak.

Roy's message to his players this morning was continue to be "hungry and humble" and play with an "a bit of an edge, a fear to lose."

That fear is of dropping to 1-2 on the season, which doesn't quite have the same positive ring to it as 2-1 heading into a tough two-game road trip against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings this weekend.

"We know they'll be desperate, but so are we," said Iginla, who played for Boston during the 2013-14 season. "We want to go to 2-1. We have had this chance at home, and we want to leave this homestand 2-1."

"We know the Bruins are a hardworking, big team that competes hard, and we have to make sure that our compete level is there.

The Avalanche players recognize what they'll face tonight against a desperate Boston team—a club that is physical and can grind out wins behind stellar goaltending.

If Colorado plays the way it did for the first two periods in its opening-night loss to the Minnesota Wild and for most of Saturday's 6-3 victory over the Dallas Stars, solving the Bruins shouldn't be a problem.

"Our game overall feels like it is on the path to where we want to be," Landeskog said. "Tonight is another chance to measure ourselves against another good team."

SODERBERG FACING FORMER TEAM

There were plenty of hugs and handshakes in the tunnel with former teammates this morning for Carl Soderberg, but it will be all business by game time for the Avs forward as he faces his former squad for the first time this evening.

Soderberg

"Out of the rink, I have some friends, but it's going to be a battle,” Soderberg said after Tuesday's practice. “No nervousness. It’s exciting to play against them. They had a bad start and we need that win [today] too."

Soderberg is in his first season with the Avs after his rights were acquired on June 25 and then signed to a long-term deal the next day.

Selected in the sixth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the St. Louis Blues, Soderberg ended up staying in Sweden where he played professionally before having his rights traded to the Bruins in 2007 and joining the club in 2013.

He played all of his 161 NHL games prior to this season with the Bruins and developed his two-way game in the organization

"They are really good defensively. I learned how to play defense and strong hockey," he said. "I think I learned a lot to play there. Now I play a different kind of game, more skilled game here. It's exciting to be here now."

Soderberg has also shown an unselfishness in his short time with the Avalanche, being a mentor to rookie Mikko Rantanen and second-year NHL pro Borna Rendulic on the club's third line.

"He is like a big brother to them. I think he's been helping them a lot," Roy said. "We've been using him on the power play and shorthanded. Sometimes we put [John] Mitchell on the wing with him. We had a good conversation because we wanted to put [Nathan] MacKinnon back at center, pushed him to the third line. He's a team guy, and we appreciate it."

STUART TO MAKE SEASON DEBUT

The Avalanche will make one personnel change to its lineup this evening, adding Brad Stuart on defense while subtracting Nate Guenin.

For Stuart, it will be his season debut after Roy kept with the same 20-man lineup for the first two games. The 35-year-old veteran will be paired with Nick Holden.

Fellow D-men Tyson Barrie and Nikita Zadorov will start the game together after finishing as a pair on Saturday night. Colorado's top defensive unit of Francois Beauchemin and Erik Johnson will remain unchanged.

Defenseman Brandon Gormley and forward Mikhail Grigorenko will be the other two healthy scratches. Semyon Varlamov will make his third start in net.

PROJECTED LINEUP

Blake ComeauMatt DucheneJarome Iginla
Gabriel Landeskog
Nathan MacKinnonAlex Tanguay
Mikko Rantanen
Carl SoderbergBorna Rendulic
Cody McLeod
John MitchellJack Skille

Francois BeaucheminErik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov
Tyson Barrie
Nick Holden
Brad Stuart

Semyon Varlamov
Reto Berra

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