On any given game day, players and coaches will often talk about the importance of playing a full 60 minutes. That translates to having a strong effort in all three zones and not having any real lapses over the course of three periods.
As cliché as playing a 'Full 60' has become, it will be key for the Colorado Avalanche to do just that as it looks for a little redemption against the Edmonton Oilers in the clubs' second meeting in less than a week.
"They are a good, fast, young team," Colorado forward Cody McLeod said of tonight's opponent. "They got the jump on us early, and it is definitely tough to comeback when you're down by three goals."
The Avs had a bad start just five days ago when the teams met in Alberta, as the Oilers held a 3-0 lead before the contest was 10 minutes old. Colorado ended up weathering the storm and tying the game 3-3, but a late power-play goal by Edmonton was the difference and sent the Avs to their third straight loss at the time. The Oilers also played the Avalanche tough in the first meeting of the season on Jan. 2, staying close until Colorado won 2-1 in a shootout.
Even in the Avs' 5-3 victory on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres, there was one period where the club didn't feel it played it's best. Colorado was leading 4-0 entering the third period, but Buffalo scored three times in the final frame to make things interesting at the end.
"We want to show them that we're not going to give them a 3-0 lead again. We want to come out strong. I felt we played well in the first two periods in the game against the Sabres here a couple nights ago. We want to build off that and erase that third period out of our minds," said Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog, reflecting on the two contests.
A game Colorado would like to mimic is the one that was sandwiched in between Edmonton and Buffalo, a 4-1 victory in Vancouver on Thursday. The Avalanche played solid in all three periods and didn't let off the gas in the third stanza, creating several good scoring chances of its own even as the Canucks were pressuring hard the other way.
It was one of the team's better wins of the season and came on the always-tough second half of a back-to-back set.
"I thought in Vancouver we played a full 60 on a back-to-back. We played a pretty solid game," McLeod said. "It's the same story, we have to come out and play solid. Every team is going to have their push at some point of the game. We just have to manage it and weather the storm when they do start pushing."
A victory this evening would not only serve as some nice redemption for the Avalanche in the final meeting of the season against its old Northwest Division foe, but it would also help the club in the Western Conference standings.
The Winnipeg Jets lost 4-3 in regulation last night to the Chicago Blackhawks, keeping Colorado eight points out of a playoff spot. However, the Avs do have a game in hand and can narrow that margin down to six points with a win. Colorado and Winnipeg also meet in the second-to-last contest of the regular season on April 9 in Denver.
"I was watching the game. I was wearing my Chicago Blackhawks jersey last night," McLeod said jokingly, showing off a big hockey-player grin with a few noticeable missing teeth. "I was cheering for them and am happy that Chicago won."
Still, the Avs can't be too worried about what other clubs are doing. If they don't keep winning, it won't matter what the Jets or the Los Angeles Kings or the Calgary Flames or any other team is doing in their contests.
"We have been saying this the whole time. As long as we have a mathematical chance of doing this (making the playoffs), we're going to do what we can do to eliminate all of the excuses at the end of the season and feel good about ourselves," Landeskog said. "If we finish [by] winning out and taking care of our games, and at the end of the day it still doesn't work, we know that we have done our jobs and we scrambled at the end to do our part. We know that we need some help, but the main focus is to take care of our games."
LINEMATES HELPED O'REILLY EARN 'THIRD STAR'
Always humble when it comes to awards and recognition, Ryan O'Reilly was quick to give credit to his linemates for helping him be named the NHL's third star of the week, announced earlier today.
"It's nice recognition any time you get something like that," O'Reilly said. "Star of the week, it's very exciting. Obviously, you have to give a lot of credit to our line. Landy and Tangs, both have been playing phenomenal. For me, it's been easier out there. Those guys create so much."
The trio of O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog and Alex Tanguay has been one of the league's best lines over the last couple weeks. Landeskog has 15 points in the month of March (six goals and nine assists) while Tanguay has 11 points (six goals and five assists) in his last 11 games.
O'Reilly hasn't been too shabby himself. He recorded seven assists and eight points in Colorado's four games last week to help earn the accolade and is on a seven-game point streak (four goals and eight assists), tying his career high set as a rookie from Oct. 12-24, 2009.
After a slow start, the 2014 Lady Byng Trophy winner is starting to look like his usual self, registering 23 points (four goals and 19 assists) in his last 20 games while now leading the team in assists with a career-high 38.
"I feel more control out there. I feel like I can impact the game more," O'Reilly said. "Early in the year, I wasn't sure, I didn't want the puck as much. I didn't want to dictate as much. Now, it's changed. The last couple months, I have constantly tried to find it and it's been improving where I'm getting out there and I have the puck on my stick and have the game on my stick and want that feeling and want the pressure of the game, I guess. It's definitely changed, and it's been a big lesson that I can hopefully continue to keep doing."
Erik Johnson once again participated in the team's morning skate, but he won't play against the Oilers. It's been nine weeks since his arthroscopic knee surgery on Jan. 26. Johnson will take part in a full team practice on Tuesday before a determination will be made if he could play on the Avs' upcoming road trip in California.
Dennis Everberg, who missed the third period of Saturday's game against the Sabres because of a hit to the head, will play this evening.
Jesse Winchester continues to practice with the club but hasn't been activated from the Avs' injured-reserve list. He hasn't played since suffering a head injury in the preseason.