DALLAS--With the preseason officially in the books, the Colorado Avalanche can now focus on starting the 2018-19 season strong.
The Avs defeated the Dallas Stars 6-5 on Sunday at American Airlines Center to finish their six-game exhibition slate with a 3-3-0 record.
"I would say it was up and down. We didn't have a great start to the preseason, we had a lot of evaluation of new players to our organization, giving good looks to some guys we feel are fighting for jobs to stay here," said head coach Jared Bednar. "We had a really good game in Vegas, scratched out a win at home against Minny and now won tonight.
"I feel like it's been trending upwards, certainly as we have kind of put a more veteran lineup in, I have seen what I need to see out of most of our veterans and we still have some tough decisions to make coming into opening night."
Before the first exhibition game, Bednar noted that he wanted to see most of his players dress in at least three of the club's six preseason outings.
The last two games had lineups that featured mostly Avalanche regulars from the 2017-18 season.
"Preseason is kind of one of those things that's necessary, you got to play the game to get the timing back," said defenseman Tyson Barrie. "It's nice to have that over with and I know we are all excited for opening night that we prepared for, so it will be good to get there.
"I think the last two [games] went well. I think a lot of us older guys didn't play a bunch of games, so we played the last two, and I think we feel pretty good. We want to build off where we finished last year."
The Avalanche has not played an official NHL game since April when it lost in six games to the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After four months of balancing enjoying the summer and training hard, the club is focused on starting the season in the best shape it can be.
"I think tonight was kind of the last chance to get your timing back," Barrie added. "We are going to be hitting the ground running here come Thursday. That's the point of preseason, you kind of shake off any rust you got and get as close to midseason form as you can."
THE SEASON STARTS THURSDAY: The Avalanche opens its season on Thursday at Pepsi Center when it hosts the Central Division-rival Minnesota Wild.
"It's only a few days out, so everybody is excited and obviously it's a big night against Minny, kind of a rivalry for us and a division matchup, so it's going to be a huge one," said Mikko Rantanen.
The Avalanche will have an off day on Monday and will utilize two more practice days on Tuesday and Wednesday before opening night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. MT on Thursday.
GAME RECAP: Colorado started the game strong, scoring twice in the first five minutes of the matchup.
Captain Gabriel Landeskog got the Avs on the board first when he tipped a Barrie shot from the point into the Stars net, and Rantanen made it a 2-0 game at 4:07 of the first period after he got the puck on a rebound in the low slot.
The Stars responded with goals from Jason Dickinson and Jamie Benn in the opening frame, but Barrie got the lead back for Colorado before the first intermission.
Landeskog netted his second of the game with another redirection in front of the net, this time from a Patrik Nemeth shot. Landeskog finished the game with two goals and one assist.
"I liked a lot of the things we did today. I thought we were engaged physically, played with passion, we had good energy on our bench and we had a really good start to the game--it was nice to see the power play step up," said Bednar. "There were a couple funny goals on both ends of the rink. I thought we did a nice job shooting the puck especially early on in the game and getting traffic in front of their goalie, so that was something we talked about trying to do.
"At our end, we blocked a couple shots that end up deflecting and going in, and they stayed on a couple pucks and screens in front of our net that we kind of kicked out to the wrong areas of the ice and they capitalized. So, a couple of things we can fix but certainly I liked our effort and liked the way we capitalized on our chances tonight."
Forwards Colin Wilson and Sheldon Dries also scored for the Avalanche while Semyon Varlamov made 32 saves in net.
SPECIAL TEAMS OPPORTUNITIES: Out of the 60 minutes in the game, about a quarter of the time was not spent at even strength.
The Avalanche had six power-play opportunities in the contest and took advantage of two of them. The club also went 2-for-3 on the penalty kill.
"Special teams is such a big part of the game and a successful season," said Barrie. "You can practice as much as you want, but until you are in a game and taking real reps it's hard to replicate. It's nice to get a couple power-play opportunities."
AVALANCHE LINE COMBINATIONS
Gabriel Landeskog - Alexander Kerfoot - Mikko Rantanen
Matt Calvert - Tyson Jost - Colin Wilson
Gabriel Bourque - Carl Soderberg - Matt Nieto
Sheldon Dries - Dominic Toninato - Logan O'Connor
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth - Mark Barberio
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar recaps the preseason