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Morning Skate Report: Avs Heading In The Right Direction

Colorado has points in eight of its last 10 outings

by Callie Parmele @CallieParmele / ColoradoAvalanche.com

The Colorado Avalanche won for the fourth game in a row with a 5-0 victory at the Nashville Predators on Saturday, and the team will look to extend its streak tonight against the Florida Panthers.

Colorado is 5-1-0 in its last six games and has points in eight of its last 10 contests (5-2-3). The squad has won two straight at home and has picked up a point in six straight road outings (3-0-3).

"We are still approaching the games the same way," said Gabriel Landeskog. "We have been able to get some results because of the way we have worked and the way we have bought in defensively and the way we have competed really. It is one of those things that it doesn't take much, but a few wins, all of a sudden you got your swagger back and feeling better."

Video: Gabriel Landeskog on the Avs strong week of play

During this stretch, the Avs have outscored their opponents 20-4 and shutout the opposition twice. Semyon Varlamov made 40 saves last Monday against the Vegas Golden Knights to deny every shot he faced for the second time this season, and Philipp Grubauer made 38 saves on Saturday at Nashville to register his first shutout as a member of the Avalanche.

With 20 games remaining in the 2018-19 regular season, the Avs sit one point out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference behind the Minnesota Wild, but Colorado has one game in hand.

"I think our team game is trending the right way. Overall, I think we kind of knew that if we stuck to our game we would get on a little bit of a roll like this, a little bit of a streak," said defenseman Erik Johnson. "But the reality is we are still sitting on the outside looking in, and we need to continue to win here to be in the playoffs at the end of the regular season. Still a lot of work left to be done. We realize the importance of the games tonight and going forward, a lot of work left to do and hopefully we can continue this streak tonight."

The contest will wrap up the two-game season series with the Panthers. Colorado won 5-2 in the first matchup on Dec. 6 in Florida. The Avs won both meetings in 2017-18, sweeping a set of at least two games from the Panthers for the first time since 2000-01. 

Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar before facing the Panthers

"Just watching them in the pre-scout, one of the teams that kind of comes to mind for me is similarities to Chicago and what we have seen out of them lately," head coach Jared Bednar said of Florida. "Real dangerous team offensively, I think that top line has done a really nice job of creating scoring chances and being dangerous every night, so they are guys that we got to pay attention to, dangerous off the rush.

"I just think there is a lot of playmakers over there, so we are going to have to make sure we are getting above pucks in the offensive zone and making it tough for Florida to come up the ice and make sure they are going to have to come through five guys all night… The movement in the offensive zone is tough to handle at times, and that is what we saw out of Chicago the other night. We didn't do a great job of it, so there are some areas we got to improve on tonight against the Panthers."

BRASSARD BECOMES AN AV

The NHL's trade deadline came at 1 p.m. MT on Monday, and before that passed, Colorado acquired forward Derick Brassard and a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft from the Panthers in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

Brassard has 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) in 50 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida this season. He was acquired by the Panthers on Feb. 1 and has four points (one goal, three assists) in 10 games since joining Florida.

With Colorado set to face his former club at Pepsi Center this evening, it is presently unknown if Brassard will play his first game with the Avalanche tonight or where he'll be in the lineup if he does. 

VARLY BACK IN NET

Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov will be back between the pipes this evening. He was named the NHL's first star for last week after recording three wins in three outings, helping the Avs to a 4-0-0 record.

Among goaltenders who made three appearances last week, Varlamov led the league with a .964 save percentage and was second with a 1.34 goals-against average. He also recorded the 25th shutout of his career last Monday with a 40-save performance against the Vegas Golden Knights.

"He has been playing really well lately, so definitely deserving of that," said defenseman Erik Johnson. "I think we have helped him out too a little bit back there, I think we are letting him see the puck pretty well but he definitely deserves it. When he is on his on his game, he is one of the best in the league so very deserving guy of that." 

The Samara, Russia, native started a season-high nine straight outings from Feb. 7-22 and is 4-1-0 with a 1.41 goals-against average and .958 save percentage over his last five starts.

INJURY UPDATES

Matt Nieto was not on the ice for Colorado's morning skate after also missing Saturday's game against the Nashville Predators with a lower-body injury. Head coach Jared Bednar said the forward is week-to-week with the ailment. 

Ian Cole participated in the team session in a red, non-contact jersey and a full-face shield for the first time since he suffered an upper-body injury on Feb. 7 at the Washington Capitals.

"He has been skating now since we have been gone. He has gotten on the ice and is making some improvements," Bednar said of Cole. "I don't have a timetable on him just yet, today is the first day he has skated with the group so hopefully that continues to progress this week. 

"Colin Wilson is back with the group today so hopefully that continues to go in the right direction.

"[Conor] Timmins, I don't really have an update on him. He is still kind of been dealing with the same thing for quite some time now."

Wilson has been out of the lineup since he suffered an upper-body injury on Feb. 10 at the Boston Bruins, and Timmins has been on the club's injured non-roster since the start of the season while recovering from a concussion.

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