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Avs Focusing On Initiating More Offense

by Ryan Boulding / Colorado Avalanche

The focus for the Colorado Avalanche is twofold at this point in the season. A critical juncture has been reached where the team has to look both inward and outward in order to find success for the short and long-term.

While Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy feels that his club is close to turning the corner, he said he’d like to concern himself with fixing the offense before he talks about what challenges the visiting Calgary Flames present.

“I’m not worried about the Flames right now. I’m worried about us,” Roy said after Colorado’s morning skate at Pepsi Center on Tuesday. “We want to continue to generate some offense. We want to bring a lot of pucks in. That’s what we’ve been doing the past few games, bringing more pucks at the net. Unfortunately for us, it seems we’re never at the right place for the rebounds.

“I always feel that eventually it will bounce our way. I understand we don’t have the results to show, and people could be sarcastic with us when we’re saying we’re close to winning some games. But I feel that we’re doing a lot of good things defensively. Unfortunately, when you don’t score that many goals the breakdowns hurt you more, and you need to be perfect. That’s the reason why we’re struggling in those close games. We don’t score the big goal, and we’re making breakdowns at the wrong time in the game. That’s been hurting us.”

One step in finding a solution to his conundrum has been to shuffle lines in the hopes of finding multiple knockout combinations that can kickstart the goalscoring. One such trio, as seen in Sunday’s match against the San Jose Sharks, featured Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on the left wing and center Matt Duchene on the right wing, except during faceoffs, which is when center Carl Soderberg was on the right wing.

It’s not as confusing as it sounds.

“I’m kind of playing both [positions],” Duchene said. “Carl and I are kind of splitting it. I’m taking all the draws, and he’s just playing low in our end because of his eye. It’s a little easier for him.”

For Duchene, the adjustment period to playing on the right side, higher in the defensive zone, has been minimal.

“I’m comfortable there,” he said, noting that his understanding for the position allows him to recognize the needs of each position. “I’ve been a centerman my whole life, and I’ve played some wing too.”

Landeskog was happy with the new combination, which can only improve as tendencies are identified and synergy is built.

“I think we had a solid start,” Landeskog said. “Anytime you have a new line, it’s going to take some time to get used to and build some chemistry. As far as the first game goes, I think we had some solid possession and we had some scoring chances that we could have cashed in on.

“I think we played a solid game, overall. We made some good decisions with the puck and made those guys work for their opportunities.

We’re going to come in tonight with the same mindset.”

Soderberg agreed with the assessment, noting that offensive conversion was within reach on Sunday.

“We could have had a couple of goals, but I think we played a strong game and hopefully we can get that going tonight too,” Soderberg added. “If Coach wants me to play there, I’ll play there. We have to find ways to win now, so that’s the most important thing. We have a lot of strong lines, so I hope we can get a win tonight.”

The move could be just what Duchene, who has just one goal and two assists after 11 games, needs to get going.

“I’m working hard everyday. It’s going to click any time now,” Duchene said. “It’s 11 games in, and there’s lot of times in everyone’s career where they go a stretch like that with production they’re not happy with. Eventually it will click. Hopefully we’re getting it out of the way early.

“When the results come too, you get more confident. You loosen up a little bit. You start playing with more confidence and more conviction, I think.”

One thing the Avs know they need to do against Calgary is continue to play stingy defense. The Flames are no stranger to firepower, and Colorado will need to shut that down early to establish control of the game.

“They’ve been a good team the first period this season,” Landeskog said. “They’ve scored a lot of their goals [in] the first period, and we’re going to make sure that we come and we match their intensity and make sure that we make them respond to us and make sure that we get in on that forecheck, we possess the puck down there. I think if we go in with the same mindset we did against San Jose in playing a solid overall 5-on-5 game and try to stay out of the box, I think that’s definitely going to help our cause.

“Team defense is going to be a priority and making sure that we keep those guys to the outside. I think the defensive game has been solid the last few games. We’ve just got to make sure that we put some pucks in the back of the net.”


STREET RECALLED

Colorado Avalanche prospective center Ben Street got the call up on Monday afternoon and will center the fourth line on Tuesday.

Ben Street

“Worked hard in camp. Worked hard at the start of the year,” Street said on Tuesday. “So it’s always nice to get the tap and kind of be rewarded.”

According to Patrick Roy, help was needed as center John Mitchell is day-to-day with an oblique injury. Street was an obvious choice for the parent club as he was off to a hot start with the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL.

“He played really well. When I spoke to [Rampage head coach] Dean [Chynoweth] and [Avalanche assistant general manager Craig Billington] about who’s hot in San Antonio, the first name that came up was Ben Street,” Roy confessed. “They said he was their best player, and [Andrew] Agozzino’s been playing really well. Unfortunately for Andrew, he hurt his shoulder, but right now we need a center and that was the reason why we called him up.”

The 28-year-old forward has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) after six games with the Western Conference-leading Rampage, which has jumped out to a 5-0-1 start.

“The team’s playing really well. All three facets of the game have been going pretty good, and we’ve been finding ways to win, regulation, overtime, that sort of thing. It’s been really good,” he said. “Obviously, the points have been there, which is really nice. Looks good on the stat sheet. It’s been a good start.

“I’ve been playing with really good players, which obviously helps a lot, and I think we’re just playing a simple style. Playing the right way. There’s nothing fancy about it. It’s not like we’re scoring highlight-reel goals. We’re just staying on pucks, winning battles, and that’s kind of contributed to our success.”

San Antonio’s captain will center Colorado’s fourth line, skating between Dennis Everberg and Jack Skille—two players he’s certainly familiar with.

“It looks like I’ll be with Dennis, who I was playing with a little bit before he came up, and Jack Skille,” Street said. “Jack, I have a history with. Back in college, we played together. I’m looking forward to that. Obviously, we haven’t played at all together this year, and… in a long time. Communication will be key and keeping it simple again.”

“I like the idea of… him playing with Everberg,” Roy said. “They played really well in the minors at the start of the season.”

Street and Skille won a National Championship together with the University of Wisconsin Badgers during the 2005-06 season.


HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER

It’s the Avalanche’s turn to host a Hockey Fights Cancer night at Pepsi Center as the home team faces the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.

The evening includes a variety of avenues of support for the NHL/NHLPA initiative, including lavender lightning in the Grand Atrium of the arena, unique Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys that will be worn during warmup and then auctioned off with the proceeds going to fund cancer research, event-themed merchandise available at Altitude Authentics, multiple special guests and even a check presentation ceremony.

The annual night is always something special for both players and fans, and Tuesday’s iteration will be no different.

“It’s tough for all,” Carl Soderberg said. “I had it in my family, and [the support] means a lot to all of us.”

“I have friends who’ve been affected,” fellow Swede Gabriel Landeskog added. “[Cancer is] everywhere nowadays, unfortunately, and we all know somebody that’s been affected. This will be a big night for awareness and to support those people that have been affected.

“It’s great to really pay tribute to those who have lost family and friends to cancer, but after that we’re just going to use it as motivation to go out there and play hard.”

Colorado kicked off Hockey Fights Cancer with a private skate at Pepsi Center on Oct. 22, inviting only families and kids dealing with the disease to come out and enjoy some time on the ice.

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