As the Colorado Avalanche approaches the halfway point of the season, the team looks to get back on track when it hosts the St. Louis Blues tonight at Pepsi Center.
Colorado is 1-4-1 in its past six outings but is still ranked second in the Central Division with a 23-13-4 mark and 50 points. In its 41stt game of the season, the club hosts the defending Stanley Cup champions and Western Conference-leading Blues, who are 26-9-6 this year.
"A great opportunity, that's the way I look at it," said head coach Jared Bednar. "We haven't played as well as we'd like to at home recently, but we get excited about playing at home in front of our fans at Pepsi Center. Got the best team in the Western Conference coming in here, a team that we haven't been great against, or haven't been able to put together a full 60 minutes against. So it's a great test, a great opportunity to kind of get us rolling back in the right direction."
Video: Coach Jared Bednar discusses changes in the lineup
The Avs fell 7-4 in their last meeting on Tuesday versus the Winnipeg Jets, though they held a 43-26 edge in shots on goal in the loss. It was the third straight game they had fired over 40 shots on net, which ties a franchise record.
Bednar said after Colorado's morning skate that it wasn't the amount of scoring opportunities his team gave up versus Winnipeg that cost them, but the quality of the chances.
"We got to get back to playing the right way, and I think you look at last game against Winnipeg, we played really well," said Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog. "Put up 43 shots, just some mental breakdowns, defensive breakdowns at bad points of the game which ends up being a difference maker. You know, for us it is so easy to focus on the result whereas we need to focus on first five minutes.
"Having a good start, coming out and getting a lead and then the next five minutes and so on and so on. Can't go in thinking about we need to win this game or whatever. You got to come up and show up with the work mentality and the work effort that we need to win tonight, and hopefully the result will be in our favor at the end of the night."
The Avalanche and Blues have met twice this season and Colorado fell in both of those matchups in St. Louis. Tonight's game is the first of three this campaign in the Mile High City for the Blues, who own a 13-5-3 record so far this year as the visiting team.
Video: Gabriel Landeskog before Avalanche vs. Blues
"We got respect for them, but we know we are a good hockey team as well," said Landeskog. "We have seen the pre-scout this morning, we know what we are facing. We know it is a good hockey team, but we got to go out and play and bring our best effort tonight."
Colorado hits the halfway point of the season after tonight's game as it is the team's 41st outing of the campaign. The Avalanche has its most wins and points through 41 games since 2013-14, and with a win tonight the Avs can match their sixth-most points and third-most wins at this point of a season.
NEW LOOK LINES
Head coach Jared Bednar is mixing up his forward combinations for the outing and the only trio that will remain the same is the Nathan MacKinnon centered line with Gabriel Landeskog and Joonas Donskoi.
"The MacKinnon line was outstanding last game, generated a lot of chances, they were pretty good on the defensive side of things, but they were on pucks," said Bednar. "Traffic to the net, getting quality scoring chances plus secondary chances from checking the puck back and just being hard in all the right areas and getting to the interior of the ice, so we will leave them together."
The other combinations will be Nazem Kadri between Matt Calvert and Valeri Nichushkin, J.T. Compher with Matt Nieto and Mikko Rantanen, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare centering a trio with Andre Burakovsky and Tyson Jost.
"The reason you are mixing it up in the first place is because it hasn't been working to the level that we would like it to," Bednar said. "We talked about it last week, trying to be patient with that and the lines and getting them together and helping find chemistry, but you don't want to be too patient either. We haven't done what we want to do in the last handful of games, so we are going to give them a different look and see how things work out."
Philipp Grubauer will get the start between the pipes.