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Avalanche Looking To Find Ways To Generate Offense

Head coach Jared Bednar expects more from his top lines

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Scoring two goals in four games won't lead to much success in the National Hockey League.

It usually takes three or more tallies a night to get a win in a league where it has become tougher and tougher to bury the rock, so two in 240 minutes of play won't cut it.

That lack of goal success is what the Colorado Avalanche is dealing with as it continues its four-game homestand this evening against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Colorado is coming off one of its better even-strength contests of the season on Sunday versus the St. Louis Blues. It generated chances by outshooting St. Louis 27-25 and holding a 50-40 edge in shots attempted in all situations.

The difference in the 3-0 loss came from the Blues' two power-play goals and the momentum St. Louis generated from having the early man advantages.

"Penalties didn't help us at all last game," said Avs forward Matt Nieto. "I thought our 5-on-5 play was pretty strong. We had success against Carolina in the last game, so we know what we have to do to be successful."

Video: Coach Bednar's pregame press conference

The Avalanche's success at producing shots versus a stingy defensive team in the Blues is a positive the club can take into tonight's contest, but the next step is to find a way to have those shots equal goals.

Defenseman Mark Barberio said it's about the Avs bearing down on opportunities and working to get the markers that don't always make the highlight reel.

"It's sticking to it," Barberio said. "We're doing the right things. We're getting pucks to the net. We're getting guys to the net. That is where the goals are. Sometimes when you're in a funk to score goals, it takes a fluky one or just something to open the flood gates a bit. If we keep doing the right things, the bounces will go our way."

Colorado's last two scores came from a deflection by Gabriel Landeskog in the closing seconds of Saturday's outing at the Winnipeg Jets and Rene Bourque's swat at a loose puck in the slot that seemed to fool Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson last Thursday. Those tallies were more fortunate than deserved.

The entire club knows it needs to be better at scoring, and head coach Jared Bednar has put pressure on his top two lines to do just that.

"They have the ability to be difference makers for us, and we need them to be," Bednar said. "I think our bottom six guys have done a better job of tying their matchups and getting on the board more often than we did in the first part of the year. Now we need those guys to take over and push us over the top."

Nathan MacKinnon agrees with that assessment as he also tries to end a personal 15-game goalless drought.

"The top guys have to be the best players," MacKinnon said. "I feel there are some games where [Matt Duchene's] going, and I'm not going. Or I'm going and Dutchy or Mikko [Rantanen] aren't. We're never really in sync. All of us have to be good every night. We have 18 games left. We've had a couple meetings. We're being challenged to be better and obviously when you get paid the money that we do, we haven't been good enough. It sucks. When you score goals, it's fun, but when you don't and you lose, it's tough."

Video: MacKinnon on the lack of scoring

So how does MacKinnon or Duchene, who has one goal in 21 games, or any of the other Avs forwards get out of their current scoring funk?

Bednar said it's about narrowing their focus to each shift, making sure they're doing the right things in creating chances for the Avalanche while denying those of the opposition.

"We've met with them as a core and as offensive guys and the pressure is on them," Bednar said. "They have all gone through different things with the trade deadline and whatnot, but at the end of the day they're playing the bulk of the minutes and logging a lot of ice and a lot of important situations. So taking care of the little things will all add up for them having success. They have to focus on that in a shift-by-shift basis."

The Hurricanes have been one of the franchises that the Avalanche has had strong success against at home. Colorado is 10-0-3 in its last 13 games against Carolina on home ice and hasn't lost in regulation since Feb. 9, 1996 when the Hurricanes were still known as the Hartford Whalers

The Avs had one of their better games of the season when the teams met on Feb. 17 in Raleigh, winning 2-1 in overtime, but that contest was the Hurricanes' first out of their bye and Carolina is still alive in the playoff hunt.

"They'll be coming out hard against us," MacKinnon said. "It feels like every team we're playing right now is desperate for points, especially in the East, it is so tight. They're going to be good tonight. I think they were coming off their bye week when we played them last so I'm sure they're going to be better tonight than last time."

LINEUP NOTES

Calvin Pickard was the first goaltender off the ice from morning skate, and head coach Jared Bednar confirmed soon after that Pickard indeed would be starting in the crease.

Pickard last started Colorado's contest on Saturday in Winnipeg. He made 15 saves before being replaced midway through the second period by Jeremy Smith.

Bednar also noted that there will be no other lineup changes from Sunday's contest, meaning forward Joe Colborne and defenseman Cody Goloubef should be the healthy scratches.

PROJECTED LINE COMBINATIONS

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Rene Bourque

Sven Andrighetto - Matt Duchene - Mikko Rantanen

John Mitchell - J.T. Compher - Blake Comeau

Mikhail Grigorenko - Carl Soderberg - Matt Nieto

 

Mark Barberio - Erik Johnson

Fedor Tyutin - Tyson Barrie

Francois Beauchemin - Patrick Wiercioch

 

Calvin Pickard

Jeremy Smith

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