After getting off to a franchise-record start through the first 16 games this season, the Avalanche has hit a slight bump in the road in the past week with consecutive losses suffered against Carolina, St. Louis and Florida.
Gabriel Landeskog and coach Patrick Roy aren’t worried, though.
A three-game losing streak is far more common than the 14-2 record the Avs produced in the season’s opening weeks, and Roy ran his team (14-5) through a spirited practice Monday morning, looking to smooth things out prior to a Tuesday night showdown against the Chicago Blackhawks (14-3-4).
“I don’t know if three games is a slump,” Roy said afterward.
“There’s no reason for us to start doubting ourselves just because we’ve lost three in a row,” Landeskog added. “ … We had a rough patch, but we have all the reason in the world to stay positive right now.”
A slight regression in win percentage was due for this club—it obviously wasn’t going to finish the year with single-digit losses—so its focus now seems to be on making sure the rest of the season is more on par with the way October went.
And not so much the way the past seven days have unfolded.
“My standpoint, I haven’t changed. I didn’t change one bit,” Roy said. “Obviously, the start that we have, people start thinking differently of us, which is what we want at some point, but I haven’t changed. It’s, ‘One game at a time,’ and we’ll be focused on Chicago tomorrow night. That’s the only thing we control.”
A slightly different roster will take the ice Tuesday night against Chicago after Matt Duchene suffered an oblique injury Saturday night against Florida. He won’t be in uniform tomorrow night against the Blackhawks, and Brad Malone will fill in after being recalled from AHL Lake Erie late Sunday night. Tyson Barrie got a call up, too, to help in the defensive zone.
Those new pieces should alleviate some of the pressure caused by the absence of Alex Tanguay (knee) and Ryan Wilson (back), who were retroactively placed on the injured reserve list Monday.
“You don’t replace guys like [Duchene and Tanguay],” Roy said. “At the same time it’s an opportunity for others.”
Duchene had 12 goals and eight assists through 19 games but is expected to miss a minimum of a week.
“He’s been one of our best players, obviously, and been one of the best players in the league so far,” Landeskog said. “So that’s a tough break, obviously, but we have a deep enough lineup to win games without him. As long as we get back to work like we’ve been playing before these last three games, I think we’ll be alright.”
Roy said rookie Nathan MacKinnon will slide into the Avalanche’s top forward line, centering a group with Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly. Paul Stastny will lead Colorado’s second trio, with Jamie McGinn on the left and PA Parenteau on the right.
Cody McLeod, John Mitchell and Maxime Talbot will serve on the third shift, and Malone will play on the left side of a line with centerman Marc-Andre Cliche and right wing Patrick Bordeleau.
Roy said defenseman Cory Sarich and Matt Hunwick will sit Tuesday night (rest), but Roy will continue to utilize an eight-defender rotation. Barrie is plus-1 this season in five NHL games in the defensive zone and will play for the first time since Oct. 27 against Winnipeg.
Injuries and recent losses aside, the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks will represent Tuesday night more than just a stern test for the Avalanche. Chicago is also a squad that’s been through some ups-and-downs—similar to Colorado—and come out on the very top.
The Blackhawks won just 20 games in the 2003-04 season and just 26 in the 2005-06 campaign. They then won the Cup in 2010 and last year. That’s the kind of progression Landeskog is aiming for with the Avs.
“They’re a club that inspires a lot of teams around the league, especially teams that have been going through a rough time lately,” he said. “For us, we’ve gotten off to a pretty good start this year and want to keep on building. To become a team like that you have to be in the playoffs for numerous years in a row, and you, obviously, have to win. Those guys have done a great job with that, and they’re definitely inspiring everyone.
“You have to go through some tough years, and you have to go through that rebuilding stage that they call it. But for us, we feel like we’re up and coming now. We’re done with that.”