The Colorado Avalanche is hungry to stay in the win column, and the players said they know that if they come out and get a big win against the red-hot Montreal Canadiens to close out the current four-game road trip, they come home with five of a possible eight points.
That’s not the ideal outcome for the Avs, but it is something that would make them happy moving into a brief home stint next week.
“It can be a good road trip. 2-1-1. I think going into the trip, we’d be happy. We wouldn’t be satisfied, but that’s a good road record and we can do that tonight with a win,” said defenseman Erik Johnson after Saturday’s morning skate. “It’s all about going out and executing and managing the puck and just really being committed to playing the type of game we need to play.
“We thought we played a good enough game to get two points in Ottawa (but) just let it slip in the third period. That’s frustrating. So we want to make sure we have a good showing tonight. A good effort tonight before we have a couple days off and play at home.”
Getting a big win at the Bell Centre is important for two reasons. The Avalanche needs points to keep pace with the competition in the Western Conference—especially in the stacked Central Division—and it would be nice to carry some confidence back when the team takes the ice at Pepsi Center on Tuesday.
“We need these two points just to stay in the hunt in the West. Every point is important,” said forward Jamie McGinn. “It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is. Whenever you can win, you've got to take it. I think we let one slip in Ottawa, but if we get it back tonight, it ends up being a pretty good road trip.”
“We know these games are important and you want to string something together on the road before you go home,” said Johnson. “You want to have that good feeling coming back to your home ice.”
Tonight’s game is also one that the boys want to take a victory in thanks to the history that head coach Patrick Roy shares with the storied Canadiens franchise, having won two Stanley Cups with the club before being traded to Colorado.
“This is such a fun arena to play in. The fans are so passionate, and obviously with some of the history with Patty playing here and obviously the amount of French-Canadian guys we have on the team,” said Nick Holden. “There’s always a little more buildup around the team when we come here.”
“We definitely want to get a win here. Obviously playing here with Patrick, it means a lot to us and a lot to him,” said center Matt Duchene. “I saw an interview with P.K. Subban and he said that a lot of teams get up to play in this rink and he’s right. They get a lot of the other teams’ bests so we want to bring our best tonight.”
The atmosphere, the thriving environment in Montreal is something that always gets the Avs excited to play. The raucous crowd is so into the game, it fuels them in a noticeable way.
“There’s a lot of history here. You look around and you just feel it and you get out there and you feel the energy from these fans here. They’re very passionate about their team,” said McGinn. “Patty returning to this building is something special. We’re going to be amped up and ready to go, but we’ve got to remember, at the end of the day, we need these two points to finish off a road trip, and you get five out of eight, you’re definitely happy with that.”
The Avalanche played two close games against the Canadiens in preseason and will look to use those contests as a roadmap to success against Montreal tonight. The puck drops at 5 p.m. MT.
Pickard Gets First Start
Goaltending prospect Calvin Pickard got his NHL debut on Thursday night, a 5-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators, in a somewhat unglamorous way. He came in to relieve injured netminder Reto Berra less than three minutes after the start of the match.
Goalie - COL
GAA: 4.21 | Sv%: .852
Now, with both Berra and Semyon Varlamov
out of the lineup tonight, Pickard will get his first official start in the NHL. And it could hardly come in a more thrilling arena.
“This is obviously a pretty special building to have your first actual start as a game. Saturday night, Hockey Night in Canada, it doesn’t get any better than this,” said forward John Mitchell. “Obviously there will be jitters.”
Mitchell said he knows that it’s important to be both an advice offering sage and a quiet observer when it comes to talking to the young goalie. His strategy is equal parts sanguine pep talk and trust in Pickard’s abilities.
“You have to give him confidence. Picks is a good goalie. Obviously coming up and playing in the NHL is a little different,” said Mitchell. “He just has to have confidence. He’s got to know that we feel confident having him in the net. We’re going to keep letting him know that. He’ll go out there and I’m sure he’ll be fine.
“I’m just going to tell him ‘go out there and have fun and play like you would when you were a kid,’ and stuff like that. Just go out there and see the puck. He knows that we’re going to be out there in front of him, protecting him, blocking shots, doing whatever we need to do to keep the puck away from the net. But you know what, he’ll come up with the saves when we need him to.”
Guys like Mitchell and even Pickard, Berra and Varlamov know that injuries are part of the game. A fluid, dynamic roster comes with the territory and it is something that they have to adjust to.
“When you have injuries and stuff like that, obviously with both our first and second goalie out…you’ve really got to rally in here as a group and play hard for the goalie that’s in front of you,” said Mitchell. “Those are just little changes and bumps in the road that are going to happen throughout the course of the year. We just want to try and build chemistry and get going and get things running the right way obviously, and I think we’re on the right track.”