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Avs Need To Play Loose and Focused Game

by Ryan Boulding / Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche has been working hard at practice, and there has been much skating, passing and shooting going on as the club looks to simplify its game in the midst of an early-season rough patch.

Hard work, attention to detail and focus are all things that head coach Patrick Roy has emphasized for his team entering Friday night’s contest against the visiting Vancouver Canucks, pointing out that a strong work ethic will lead to strong play in game scenarios. At the same time, the players know that they need to relax a little bit, not panic or play a stiff game.

“When times are like this, times are tough, and you can’t seem to buy anything really, you can’t seem to get any breaks or any bounces, you just have to force yourself to focus a little more,” said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. “Sometimes you’re going to squeeze the stick a little more. For me, anytime I’m snakebitten or dry, I go to the net and work even harder and do the little things right.”

That focus is important in staying grounded and not over-analyzing every play. A relaxed player will have a far better game. That’s when the continued hard work pays off.

“I think you want to maintain your confidence. When things don’t go very well for you, I think you try and maybe overcomplicate things a little bit. For us, we have such a highly skilled group that those skillful players are going to come out during the game,” said defenseman Erik Johnson. “You’ve just got to keep it simple and not try and do too much. If you’re not really finding chemistry or feeling like you’re in the groove, you’ve just got to keep it simple and your skills will take over.

“You create your own breaks by how hard you work and we’ve got to continue to make sure our effort is there, but execution-wise we’ve got to be better and I think that will help turnaround our game.”

Roy has said that if the team can play with the same kind of energy that has been there in practice, good things will come. At the same time, he is expecting his players to focus on a solid personal effort in order to bring success to the team as a whole.

“I want us to be ready individually tonight. I want our guys to go home this afternoon and think what—individually—they need to do for tonight’s game. Win their battles, skate hard, be sharp around their net,” Roy said following today’s morning skate. “If we’re doing a good job individually, I think we’ll have a good night. I’m not nervous about the X’s and O’s and stuff like that. I think everybody understands the system. Everybody knows what we expect, but I think we need to be better individually.”

Roy said he believes the source of Colorado’s struggles is in playing a consistent game. If the club can play with the same effort throughout the contest, the wins will start flowing in.

“Our game management needs to be a little bit better, and more consistent at the same time,” said Roy. “The last five games we played—we won one obviously—but we were up 2-1 against the Leafs in Toronto in the third. We were up 3-2 halfway in the third against Ottawa. We were up 1-0 against Montreal midway in the game. We were up 3-2, four minutes left in the second period against the Panthers the other night.

“Our game management needs to be a little bit better, and I think we also need to stay focused. Our intensity level needs… some consistency.”

Landeskog couldn’t agree with his coach more.

“We want to put a full 60-minute effort together,” said Landeskog. “We’ve had the lead in a lot of theses games lately and somehow found a way to lose these games, and that’s something we want to eliminate from our game as soon as possible.”

Despite the 1-4-2 record and sluggish production early in the season, players like 19-year-old Nathan MacKinnon are still excited to come into Pepsi Center and get back to work doing the thing they love most in the world.

“On a Friday night, playing hockey is the best thing in the world to me and I think everybody in the dressing room. We’re going to be excited,” said MacKinnon. “I think it’s going to be a big test for us. We’ve been reviewing our systems a little bit these past couple of days and trying to work out some kinks and I think we’ll be okay.”

Redmond’s Debut

Zach Redmond

Defenseman Zach Redmond is set to make his Avalanche debut tonight, filling in for the injured Ryan Wilson on Colorado’s blue line.

“It’s been good. I’ve been learning. I haven’t been playing, but I have been learning still and working hard and just doing everything I can,” said Redmond after the morning skate. “I can’t wait to play. I’m excited for that opportunity and just need to make sure I make the most of it.”

Redmond hasn’t yet had a chance to see what Avalanche fans are like, so that intrigue adds to his excitement.

“It’s a great rink, great fans,” said Redmond. “I haven’t actually played here so definitely, I’m excited.”

Little pressure has been placed on Redmond by coach Roy. Colorado’s bench manager would rather the 26-year-old play loose and comfortable than get caught up in doing all the right things immediately.

“No expectations. I want him to enjoy his first game with us,” said Roy. “I want him to play his game. I want him to make a good impression on us, a bit like we did with Nick Holden last year.”

Varlamov’s Return

Avalanche goaltender and 2013-14 Vezina Trophy runner-up Semyon Varlamov returns to the lineup tonight after missing three games due to a groin injury.

“I can tell you I feel good right now. I’m rested. I’m ready to go,” said Varlamov on Thursday after practice. “I’m healthy. That’s a very important thing for me.

“I’ll be ready to play.”

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