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Avalanche Ready for Power-Play Boost

by Scott Ward / Colorado Avalanche

The “power” is missing from the Avalanche’s power play—at least in its past 10 games.

Colorado’s last man-advantage goal came Nov. 21 at Phoenix, when Ryan O’Reilly gave the Avalanche a 4-3, overtime win with a power-play score 42 seconds before the end of the extra period.

Since then the Avs have been on 26 power players and not once reaped the benefit. Colorado is 13-of-89 (24th, NHL) on power-play chances this season and 6-of-40 at home (23rd).

"It's time for the power play to click. There's no doubt about it," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said Saturday night, following his team’s 0-for-2 power-play night in Minnesota’s 2-1 win at Pepsi Center.

Roy stressed then, again at practice yesterday and then this morning the importance of his team playing within itself when it has a chance to dictate the play. He also wants his players to maintain a simplified approach, which is quickly becoming a calling card of his coaching style.

It’s not quite as simple as, “See the net. Shoot the puck.” But it’s close.

“We’ve got to put pucks on the net, simple things, and bear down on our chances,” he said. “We have had some chances, we’ve had some [shots] against an empty net, but right now we just don’t shoot with the confidence we should. All I’m asking tonight is, ‘ Put pucks at the net and [create] traffic.”

Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding did his part Saturday night in keeping the Avs mostly off the scoreboard, and the Stars’ Kari Lehtonen will try to do the same tonight. Lehtonen allowed three goals in his previous start against Colorado, a 3-2 Avalanche win in Dallas.

“They have one of the best goalies in the league,” Roy said. “We’re going to have to be good around him tonight if we want to score goals.”


- Tonight’s game is the third of five this season between Dallas and Colorado, with the final two coming in Texas, including tomorrow night (6:30 p.m. MT).

With an eight-point advantage over the Stars in the standings (43 to 35) the Avalanche has a chance in the next 48 hours to clearly distance itself in the Central Division standings.

- Colorado is set to play in back-to-back games for the fourth of 10 times this season. The Avs are 5-1 this year in three previous back-to-backs, including a 2-1 mark in the first game and a 3-0 mark in the second.

“You’re used to back-to-backs on the road, where you fly from one spot to another, so I guess this isn’t a whole lot different, but when you’re playing the same opponent two nights in a row I guess that has a little different feel to it,” Colorado defenseman Cory Sarich said. “You always want to make sure you get off to a good start in the first game.”

- Sarich assisted on Max Talbot’s redirect goal Saturday night vs. Minnesota, giving him a career long-tying three-game point streak (zero goals/three assists). That matches his mark set from Nov. 17 to 21, 2002, when he skated for Tampa Bay.

Sarich, who also Saturday night set a career high with a three-game assist streak, has seven assists overall this season, which is his most since the 2010-11 season, when he was with Calgary.

“I never really concentrate on the offensive side of my game,” Sarich said. “It just kind of comes and goes. [I’ve] just been trying to contribute, though, defensively, and I’ve just been trying to hold pucks in at the blue line and help pinch and do things like that, and some of those plays have helped result in points and goals for us.”

- Semyon Varlamov (14-8, 2.40 goals-against average) will start between the pipes for Colorado for the fourth straight game after he had one of his best games of the season Saturday night against Minnesota. He allowed just one regulation goal against the Wild and was within 3:53 of his second shutout this season.

- Defensemen Nick Holden and Ryan Wilson and forward Brad Malone are Colorado’s likely scratches. Roy said yesterday that Wilson would potentially travel with the team to Texas following tonight’s game, but he said this morning that Wilson will instead stay behind and continue to work on his conditioning as he readies for a return from a back injury.

- Forward Alex Tanguay (knee/hip) continues to be out indefinitely.

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