After a disappointing outing to close out a back-to-back set in St. Louis on Sunday, the Colorado Avalanche has returned to Pepsi Center for a four-game homestand, which starts tonight against the Arizona Coyotes.
The Avs got in a day of practice between contests, and the primary focus of both the pre-skate video session and the on-ice work was evaluating the club's structure
"A lot of structure. I think we got a little sloppy with it, so that's something we addressed," defenseman Tyson Barrie said of Monday's workload. "We kind of left [Semyon Varlamov] out to dry in St. Louis. So we watched some video and worked on it in practice, and we're going to be a lot more sound structurally."
What does that mean to a player like Mikhail Grigorenko?
Video: Mikhail Grigorenko talks about Arizona
"We just got to be a little bit tighter in some areas and be better in our neutral-zone forechecks and stuff like that," the 22-year-old forward said. "We just need to kind of focus out there and be prepared to play and do the right things out there, because every game that we won, we did that. It's not that we don't know how to do it, it's just us going out there and actually doing what we already know. We just got to do it."
The trouble is that Colorado has struggled to do that consistently. The season is young and the identity of the team is developing, so it will take some time for the unit to hone in on how it wants to play.
In the meantime, Grigorenko said it isn't a matter of holding on to old or even bad habits.
"I think just sometimes it happens. There's some games that we lost that we still played well, but the last couple games we weren't able to be consistent," he said. "We just need to prepare. Every guy has to prepare himself and play within the structure together as a team, and I think we should be fine."
Preparation, attention to detail, focus on the tasks at hand; these things make up the structure that head coach Jared Bednar wants to see embodied by his players. Once they can do that, consistency will come.
Video: Coach Jared Bednar on the Arizona Coyotes
"The biggest thing for me is focusing on our team game and the way we play. We've talked about this before. The games that we've come to play our game and been really competitive and a determined group and really paid attention to our structural play because we have to, when we do that we've either won or given ourselves a good chance to win," said Bednar. "In a lot of our losses, our compete level and the way we're on pucks and the way we're skating or not skating, our structural play is poor. Those tend to land on the same night, and we're not even giving ourselves a chance to win.
"[It's] baby steps for us. We need to keep doing things the right way and find a way to become consistent at it, and then we give ourselves a chance to win long term."
The Avs are looking to take that step tonight against the Coyotes, kicking off the current stretch with an important two-point game.
"It doesn't get any harder schedule-wise than we've had it. Now we've got a chance at a four-game homestand," Bednar said. "We want to make sure we're establishing our identity at home and really trying to get an identity going for our team long term. This is a good opportunity to do that. We obviously didn't like our game in St. Louis at all, so now it's a chance for us to rebound again. And we've shown that we can do that."
"We obviously didn't have the record we wanted to at home last year, and we want to change that this year and make it fun for these fans to come to the game and cheer us on. It starts tonight," Barrie said. "Kind of had a schedule that's been all over the place, but it's always fun to come back and have a little bit of a homestand here in Denver."
Video: Tyson Barrie discusses the Coyotes
Tuesday's contest will be the first repeat team the Avalanche has faced this season, as the squad defeated Arizona 3-2 on Oct. 29 in the desert. The Avs know what to expect from their opponent but will need to execute on their own game plan to be successful.
"We played not a long time ago, and we had success against them," said Grigorenko. "So we're just looking to come out with the same effort as the last game we played them, and we should be good."
For Bednar, that effort involved three specific things that he'd like to see again tonight.
"We played with pace, our execution was good and we didn't have any passengers, throughout our lineup. We were rolling four lines," he said. "You can't take nights off in this league and expect to win, and you can't have passengers on the bench."
When the team is playing the right way, working hard in every area of the ice and focusing on its tasks each and every shift, good things will happen. That includes scoring goals, which the Avalanche has struggled to do.
Despite being ranked last in the NHL with 6.9 percent of shots finding twine, Bednar believes that sticking to the structure will result in more markers for his team.
"I think that we have a handful of guys right now that you could call them snake bit. You could call them frustrated offensively, however you want to word it," Bednar said. "I think that if you look at the scoring chances in our first 10-game segment, the number of chances that we're producing, we should have a few more goals than we do. I think the key to it is just to come with a new mindset every day that you're just going to continually do the right things and then eventually those things will sort themselves out. Goalscorers get in streaks where they score goals in bunches and then sometimes they cool off a little bit.
"I think once these guys find a way to score a goal or two, then things could open up for them."
On defense, the club will be tasked with providing better protection for starting netminder Calvin Pickard than they did for Varlamov on Sunday. That's not to say that there's concern for who is between the pipes.
"He's been great in every single game that he's played," Grigorenko said of Pickard. "He's rock-solid down there. He brings a lot of confidence in every player. He's a good goalie, so it's good he gets a chance to play tonight."
"Cal's played great all year," Barrie added. "So I think we just got to try and play our game, keep shots to the outside, and we know when we do have a breakdown, he's there to make the big save."
The puck drops at 7 p.m. MT, tickets are still available and the game can be seen on Altitude 2 and heard on 92.5 FM The Wolf and at ColoradoAvalanche.com.
AVS ON ELECTION DAY
The Avalanche doesn't always play on Election Day in the United States, but the club has been good when it has.
Colorado is 1-0 all-time in games that fall during the event. The Avs hosted the Minnesota Wild during the 2000 Election (Nov. 7, 2000) and posted a 2-0 victory.
Joe Sakic and Shjon Podein scored the goals and Dan Hinote, Alex Tanguay, Dave Reid and Aaron Miller had helpers. Goaltender Patrick Roy stopped all 23 shots faced for the shutout.
George W. Bush was officially named president on Dec. 13, 2000, when Al Gore conceeded.