For the most part, the Colorado Avalanche has played some overall solid hockey in its past five games. Yes, those contests haven't all ended in wins, but head coach Jared Bednar has seen plenty of things that he's liked from his squad.
"A large portion of those games, we've played some of our best hockey of the year," Bednar said of the club's recent stretch. "The fear of losing a little bit in the third period when something goes wrong for us, the culmination of our mistakes, or just the mistakes we're making, are very costly to us. It's a fine line between winning and losing those games, and we have to keep that in perspective, and we have to try to keep working through that."
The Avalanche is coming off a 7-4 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night, and it will face that same club on Saturday in Alberta's capital as the teams conclude their home-and-home set. It will also be their final meeting of the season, after the Oilers won the first two.
This is Colorado's third home-and-home series of the season, with the team having already played the San Jose Sharks (Jan. 21-23) and the Detroit Red Wings (March 15-18) in back-to-back contests.
Captain Gabriel Landeskog said the Avalanche knows what to expect from the Oilers heading into the second matchup.
"You're more aware of the systems and you've seen them before and more aware of the players so that, if anything, will make you just more alert of what's going to happen out there," Landeskog said. "Other than that, you have to make sure you bring the same intensity and same effort."
Bednar was pleased with the team's defensive play versus some of the Oilers' top scorers. The Avs coach matched up his top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Sven Andrighetto and Mikko Rantanen against a Connor McDavid-centered trio, and they shut down the NHL's scoring leader until Edmonton's push in the third period.
"We know this is a dangerous team. We know we have to be ready to check, just like we were last night," Bednar said. "MacK's line in particular, shutting down the McDavid line early and getting a couple opportunities themselves. Our game plan isn't going to change. We looked at them in-depth before we played them, and we just have to be ready to compete and make sure we're playing a full 60 minutes."
Video: Coach Bednar addresses the media
If anything, the biggest difference will be that Edmonton has an advantage with personnel on the ice. The Oilers will be the home squad, and they'll get the opportunity for the last change before faceoffs.
"Things will change because of the matchups," Bednar said. "If they choose to do something different, we're going to have a tough time on the road getting what we want on the ice."
Bednar will make a change in net for the second game of the series, as goaltender Calvin Pickard will get the start after Jeremy Smith guarded the pipes on Thursday.
Bednar said after Friday's off-ice workout that he hasn't decided on who will be scratched versus the Oilers or who will start in Friday's contest at the Calgary Flames, noting "we'll go day-by-day."
AVS HEAD TO SWEDEN IN 2017-18
On Friday morning, the National Hockey League announced that the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators will play two games next season in Stockholm, Sweden, as part of the NHL Global Series, and Avs forward Gabriel Landeskog can't wait to showcase the game and the team he captains in his hometown.
"I didn't think it was real at first. That's super exciting," Landeskog said Friday about playing in Sweden. "I mean I've played a World Championship there before and, obviously during the lockout I was there playing for Djurgarden, but playing an NHL game, and two NHL games in your hometown in front of your family and friends, I mean that's going to be really exciting. I think all my friends and family are really excited, too."
Video: Landeskog on playing in Sweden
Landeskog is one of three Swedes currently on Colorado's roster, joining defenseman Anton Lindholm (Skelleftea) and forward Carl Soderberg (Malmo).
This is the first time the NHL has played regular-season games in Europe since 2011.
"Should be a good turnout, and Stockholm has a great hockey tradition and a good fan base for hockey," Landeskog said. "I think the NHL is going to take that city by storm, and I think it will be a lot of fun."
The Avs have played in Sweden one previous time, an exhibition against Brynas IF of the Swedish Elite League in the NHL Challenge Series in September 2001.
Next season's games will be played Nov. 10-11, with Colorado serving as the home team for the first outing.