No matter what happens in the Western Conference standings, the Colorado Avalanche wants to finish the season on its own terms.
“We’ve said for awhile now that we’re going to go hard and obviously try and win out, and that mindset is not changing. Tonight, again, we’re going to try to have a great game and win,” Avalanche defenseman Nick Holden said following the team’s morning skate in Anaheim. “You’re always playing for the ‘A’ on your shirt, and I don’t think that changes, whether you’re in the playoffs or not. We’re a proud team, and obviously want to play the best we can and win out here.”
That will be the case tonight when the Avs take on the Anaheim Ducks, playing in the first game of the final back-to-back set of the 2014-15 campaign.
“We’re going to do whatever we can here. We have a lot of pride in here, and we’ve got to be pros and play the way we can play,” said center Matt Duchene. “We’re looking forward to tonight, and we’ve got to come out ready.”
Many on the Avalanche said they know what to expect in tonight’s game; the Ducks lead the Pacific Division, the Western Conference and the entire NHL for a reason. Their reputation certainly precedes them.
“Obviously, it’s the best team in our conference. They’re first overall in the NHL. It’s a team with a lot of depth. It’s a team that has size and good speed,” said head coach Patrick Roy. “In the two games we played with them—in Denver and the last one here—I thought we played some good hockey against these guys. We lost 3-2 at home and we lost 3-2 in overtime here. I thought we played a good game [last time].”
“They’re a talented, fast, big group over there, and I think the best way to play against those guys is to give them no space,” said Holden, who expects to face the best of Anaheim tonight. “You don’t let them get moving, you don’t let them get their hands going or get shots or anything like that. Take away time and space. I think that’s the best way that you can play against a skilled team.”
For Roy, playing the top team in the league offers an opportunity to see how the Avs stack up, both as a team and on an individual level. It provides a game-scenario comparison that will allow for adjustments, not only in the final four contests of the season but in training camp and the years beyond as well.
“It’s always nice to see how you’re going to do against a team like this. It allows us to—I don’t like to use the word evaluate but—see how some of our players will respond against a team like this,” Roy said. “This is a team you look up to a lot in the way that you want to know where you are as a team and personally. Obviously, it will be a good test for some of our guys.”
Tonight’s match is also a mentally challenging one, requiring the utmost in dedication and focus.
“I think these are the hardest games to play. You got to have a lot of pride. You got to have a lot of self-motivation because it’s the first time in the whole season you feel like you’re just not playing for as much. It’s tough. It’s really hard. We’ve got to show our character and our professionalism,” said Duchene. “If we go 5-0, that’s the only way we even have a shot at making it. Obviously, that’s our goal, but we know at this point it’s going to be tough to get in.”
The puck drops at 8 p.m. MT at Honda Center.