PITTSBURGH-Getting off to a good start is the desired norm prior to the opening faceoff of any hockey game.
You hear the coach say it, and you hear the players say it as well.
"First game on the road, and on the road you definitely want to have a good start in the game," Colorado Avalanche defenseman Fedor Tytuin said following the team's morning skate at PPG Paints Arena. "Have a good first period and just tighten up defensively, play a little better without the puck, and I think that will be good."
While the point is of importance in a competitive match between two professional teams, the same can also be said for the beginning of the NHL season. The old adage is that you can't win the Stanley Cup in October, but you can certainly hurt your chances of playing past the end of the regular season if you don't find early success.
That's where the Avs find themselves they prepare to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight in Pennsylvania, looking for a good start. The team is 1-0 in the regular season-hot off a 6-0 preseason run-and has embarked on its first road trip of the new campaign.
The primary challenge? How about taking on the defending Stanley Cup champions?
"We're going to face a lot of real strong opponents here on this trip, no tougher than Pittsburgh in here in their own building," Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said. "So we have to have a good start and clean up some of the things we did wrong in Game 1 and look to improve every night."
There are points and pride on the line. Colorado needs to win, and the Avalanche wants to prove that it is a team that can beat anyone.
"It's another test against a top opponent. I think you're trying to figure out where you settle out as a team. For us, it's being the best version of ourselves we can be every night," Bednar said. "You're going to face tough opponents, and you're going to have to play them home and road. This is a big one right away, the defending champs in our second game. I think it is a good measuring stick for us, and our guys should be excited to play them."
This game is, for lack of a better term, a measuring stick for the Avs.
"It's such a deep league. Almost anybody can win it any given year if they come together and do the right things," forward Matt Duchene said. "Having said that, to be the best you have to beat the best. That's our task tonight."
The year is young and there are plenty of trials ahead, but things seem to be coming together for Colorado. After an exhibition period that saw only two power-play markers, the club made some adjustments in that area and it paid off on Saturday when the squad scored twice on the power play.
"I think the guys worked really hard at it earlier in the week. We had a couple days there. We had the luxury of having a long practice week, so we were able to hit our power play a couple times," Bednar said. "They worked hard at it, and they did a good job of getting to the net. Joe [Colborne], obviously, in front of the net [banged] in some rebounds."
The Avs will look for the same success, both on the man advantage and at even strength, when they return to action tonight at 5 p.m. MT.
PICKS BETWEEN THE PIPES
According to Bednar, the only change planned for tonight's tilt is to have netminder Calvin Pickard manning the crease for the Avalanche.
With the club playing a back-to-back set on the road, Pickard will get the nod this evening while Semyon Varlamov will start on Tuesday versus the Washington Capitals.
Obviously, this is Pickard's first start of the 2016-17 campaign. Last season, the 24-year-old puckstopper went 7-6-1 with Colorado and posted a 2.56 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
Varlamov went 27-25-3 last year, posting a 2.81 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.
Gabriel Landeskog--Nathan MacKinnon--Jarome Iginla
Mikhail Grigorenko--Carl Soderberg--Matt Duchene
Andreas Martinsen--Ben Smith--Blake Comeau
Gabriel Bourque--Joe Colborne--Rene Bourque
Nikita Zadorov--Erik Johnson
Francois Beauchemin--Tyson Barrie
Fedor Tyutin--Patrick Wiercioch