With a day of rest following back-to-back games against the Boston Bruins on Monday and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, the Colorado Avalanche is ready roll again tonight against the Ottawa Senators. Playing their third game in four days, the Avs have collected three of a possible four points thus far on the current road trip, a success given the condensed travel schedule.
“I think, right now, we’re looking at our last two games here as a great road trip so far. I mean, you get three out of four points. We’ve got two more to make it even better,” said center Matt Duchene, who’s focusing on the game at hand. “We’ve got to be ready for tonight. This is a good team. They’re fast. They’re a typical Eastern Conference team—offensive—and we’ve got to be ready.”
It’s been no secret that scoring is an area of focus for the Avalanche, which has managed just four goals through four contests. For forward Jamie McGinn, more points comes with increasing the club’s shot output, starting tonight against the Senators.
“We’ve got to come out with our legs moving and just simplify. Another obvious thing is we’ve got to get more pucks to the net, and we’ve got to get traffic in front and then I think more goals will come,” said McGinn after Thursday’s morning skate. “If we just dirty up our game a bit, I think that might help out a lot.
“We look around and we’ve got a great group in here and we’re excited about it. So I don’t think we’re worried about the offensive production yet. As long as we’re working and putting pucks (on) and doing the small, little things and the right things, you know it’s going to come because we have the talent in here.”
Goals have been coming more frequently for Colorado, which has put home two each in the last two games. For a self-proclaimed slow starter like Duchene, that’s a good sign.
“We’ve scored two in the last couple games. We easily should have had three or four last game. We had some guys, including myself, who had some great chances in the third and we just need to bear down and finish those,” said Duchene. “Scoring breeds scoring. I think, personally, it feels good to get that one last game, but I’m still really hungry and want to keep on. That’s my role on this team, to provide offense, and that’s what I’ve got to bring to the table.
“I think that first one’s always the hardest one to get. For me, it’s always been anyway. It’s nice to get it out of the way early. Obviously you want to do it in the first five games at the very least and then hopefully you roll from there.”
One way for the Avalanche to start finding the back of the net is by capitalizing on man-advantage opportunities when given the chance. Colorado is 0-for-13 on the power play through the first four games of the season.
“It’s a matter of time. Unfortunately for us, one of the problems with our offense is our power play. We don’t generate enough shots on net. We try to be too cute. We’re looking for perfect plays,” Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said during his weekly radio interview on The Fan Morning Show on 104.3 FM. “We’re going to have to put more pucks on net and eventually, if we score on one of those power plays, I think it’s going to bring confidence. Right now they’re not shooting with some confidence.”
Duchene, a key factor on what should be a dominant power play unit, echoed that sentiment after the morning skate.
Center - COL
Goals: 1 | Assists: 1 | Pts: 2
Shots: 10 | +/-: 0
“I think five on five we’re probably okay, but it’s our power play. We had one shot on net last game. In the first power play, we were in their zone for two minutes too,” said Duchene. “It’s just not acceptable. We’ve got to get more pucks on net, more chances, and we’ll get there. We’re a puck possession team. We’re a team that likes to make plays.
“There’s a happy medium that we’ve just got to find, and then we’ll start scoring goals—ugly and nice goals.”
Goals or no goals, the Avalanche is certainly coming together. The club skated well against the always-dominant Bruins and was more than happy with a run-and-gun game against the potent Maple Leafs. This kind of progress is what Roy likes to see.
“I’m very happy with our last three games,” said Roy. “I thought, against Minnesota at home, we competed a lot better. I thought we were more enthusiastic. I was very happy with the way we competed.
“In Boston, we played a really good game and I thought we had a good game. The first back-to-back game, it’s always the toughest one. Going to Toronto, they were waiting for us. They won 6-3 in New York. They were a very confident team. I thought we had a great start.”
The Avs are looking to continue building on these success tonight in Ottawa during the Senators’ home opener. They know it will be a tough challenge but playing spoiler is a sweet reward.
The puck drops at 5:30 p.m. MT.
Roy said today, during his morning interview, that utility forward John Mitchell has been cleared to play. Mitchell has missed all four Avalanche games to date this season with migraines. He will make his 2014-15 season debut tonight playing on the fourth line.
Defenseman Ryan Wilson has also been cleared to resume playing. Wilson took a puck to the head during Colorado’s 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Monday afternoon, leaving the game before the start of the second frame. Wilson did not play in Colorado’s 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto on Tuesday. He is a healthy scratch tonight.
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov has been placed on IR. Calvin Pickard has been recalled from the Lake Erie Monsters.
Jamie McGinn — Matt Duchene — Jarome Iginla
Gabriel Landeskog — Ryan O'Reilly — Dennis Everberg
Alex Tanguay — Nathan MacKinnon — Daniel Briere
Cody McLeod / John Mitchell / Marc-Andre Cliche / Maxime Talbot
Nick Holden — Erik Johnson
Tyson Barrie — Jan Hejda
Nate Guenin — Brad Stuart
Ryan Wilson, Zach Redmond.