The Colorado Avalanche was happy to be back home after a successful road trip but got right back to work on Tuesday at Family Sports Center in Centennial.
“You can tell just watching our practices, we practiced today with a lot of intensity,” head coach Patrick Roy said about the team’s skate. “The guys are alert. They are focused. They know how important those games are, and yes, want to be one game at a time. Yes, we don’t want to look too far ahead, but it’s a fun time in the season. We’re happy to have this opportunity. Now we have to make the best of it.”
Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon were absent from Tuesday’s practice, both out with knee injuries, as well as Jarome Iginla, who was given the day off by the team for rest.
Roy announced that Duchene and MacKinnon would miss the next two games. They will be reevaluated on Sunday before Colorado’s two-game road trip at Nashville and St. Louis.
The Avs had a well-deserved off day on Monday after taking six points on a four-game Western Canada trip last week.
“We’ve been playing some smart hockey,” Roy said. “We’ve been working hard on our puck possession and making sure that we hold onto the puck more. Defensively, our tracking is good. I think the guys are playing some good hockey.”
Three-straight wins over the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers positioned Colorado one point ahead of the Minnesota Wild for the Western Conference's second wild-card spot, with both the Wild and Avalanche having played 73 contests.
“I thought those three games on the road, especially the last one against Edmonton, that was a great response,” Roy said. “It was nice to have Landy (Gabriel Landeskog) back at the same time. You could tell the addition of [Shawn] Matthias and [Mikkel] Boedker have been very important to us, especially right now with the injuries that we have. The depth of our team, I don’t think has ever been as good as it is right now in my three years here.”
Colorado’s duo of home contests this week will be a true test of the team’s ability, especially without its two leading scorers in Duchene and MacKinnon.
The Avs face the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, a team that’s currently one point out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot and chasing the Detroit Red Wings for that position. Colorado then faces Western-Conference rival Minnesota on Saturday.
Roy said on Tuesday that he would keep the lines the same for Thursday’s game against the Flyers as it was versus the Oilers.
“[Mikhail] Grigorenko played really well with Boedker and [Blake] Comeau and Mitchy (John Mitchell) has been playing well with Jarome and Marty (Andreas Martinsen),” he said. “The line of [Carl] Soderberg with Landeskog and Matthias, I was pretty happy to see them play the way they played because that’s how we were playing before Landy got suspended. It’s nice to see them play the same way.”
Roy also confirmed that goaltender Semyon Varlamov would get consecutive starts in the Avs’ next two outings.
For those scoreboard watching, Minnesota plays one more contest before the Avs take the ice this week, starting at home tonight against the Los Angeles Kings. The Wild then hosts Calgary on Thursday.