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Avs Look To Make Better Bounces Against Flames

Mikko Rantanen leads the team on the power play

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

CALGARY, Alberta--The Hockey Gods were unkind to the Colorado Avalanche last time it played the Calgary Flames.

Calgary scored four goals in a 6-3 win on favorable "bounces" on Dec. 27, three coming off Avs players' skates and another from the puck ricocheting off the end wall and starting netminder Calvin Pickard's back before landing on the wrong side of the goal line.

"Our offense was okay in that game, but a couple of bad bounces," Avs forward Mikhail Grigorenko recalled of that outing. "We just have to do a better job of sealing out and making sure guys don't get in front of the net to make sure those bounces don't happen. We got to take away sticks and stuff."

Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said after that contest that the Flames were rewarded with those breaks because of their hard work, and he still holds that assessment eight days later.

"You know what, I looked back at that game and I liked areas of our game. We got away from it in the second period, and I thought Calgary earned a lot of breaks that they got," Bednar said. "They threw a lot of pucks to the net, they had traffic going to the net, and then they got a couple breaks; a couple that I don't think we could have done anything about, but a couple for certain that we could have done things differently and kept it out of our net."

Colorado is coming off a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night, an outing where the team felt it played good 5-on-5 but bad penalties resulted in two goals in the back of the net.

The Avalanche looks to build on the positives from Vancouver as it closes a two-game Western Canada trip tonight versus the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"The 5-on-5 play was pretty good [in Vancouver]," Grigorenko said. "Their goalie made a lot of good saves, but we had some scoring chances and that's good. We just have to bite down on those chances and start scoring some goals."

The Avs did get their power play going versus the Canucks after six games without scoring on the man advantage. Mikko Rantanen was the recipient of a nice pass from Nikita Zadorov at the left circle and fired a shot that went off the crossbar and in to tie the outing 1-1 in the second period.

It was Rantanen's team-leading third power-play goal of the season. He's recently been stationed along the half-wall during extra-man chances, giving him options to distribute the puck high and low or shoot it, like he did Monday.

"I try to move the puck quickly and shoot the puck when I have the opportunities," Rantanen said. "So hopefully we can be good on the power play today."

Colorado's first-round draft pick from 2015 is fourth on the club in points (17) and is third in assists (11) during his first full year in the NHL. Rantanen was sidelined during training camp because of an ankle injury and began the year in San Antonio to get back to game speed. Since his return to the Avs, he's been a staple in their top six.

"It's a dream to play in the NHL," Rantanen said. "It's a privilege. So you have to work hard, too, everyday and be professional, but its really nice."

Grigorenko said it's been fun for him to watch the 20-year-old develop his game at the highest level of the sport.

"He's been great since day one. He's probably one of our best players," Grigorenko said of Rantanen. "He's really good on the power play and he's really skilled. He sees the ice really good. He controls the puck. He always demands it, and he has a great shot."

Today's 8 p.m. MT game will be the second of three matchups between the Avalanche and the Flames and the first of two at the Saddledome. Colorado will make its last trip to Calgary on March 27.

VARLAMOV UPDATE

Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov isn't on this two-game trip in Western Canada as he stayed in Colorado to continue his rehab from a nagging groin injury.

"He's progressing. He's at home skating on his own right now and doing some work off the ice," said Bednar, giving an update on the netminder's status. "We felt it was best, with him not being able to play on the trip, to leave him there and get some work done. We'll see when we get back there tomorrow and try to figure out exactly what his timeline's going to be."

Varlamov last played Dec. 22 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He's missed eight of the last 10 games because of the injury.

LINEUP NOTES

The Avalanche held an optional morning skate on Wednesday, with only a handful of guys taking part in drills after an hour-long practice the previous day.

Goaltender Calvin Pickard will get the start in net for the sixth consecutive game, tying a career high.

Colorado will use the same lineup as Monday night in Vancouver, with defenseman Eric Gelinas and forward Andreas Martinsen being scratched.

PROJECTED LINEUP

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Rene Bourque

Mikko Rantanen - Matt Duchene - Jarome Iginla

Mikhail Grigorenko - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau

Joe Colborne - John Mitchell - Cody McLeod

 

Fedor Tyutin - Tyson Barrie

Nikita Zadorov - Patrick Wiercioch

Francois Beauchemin - Cody Goloubef

 

Calvin Pickard

Jeremy Smith

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