CENTENNIAL, Colo.--After being on the road for three games, the Colorado Avalanche returned to practice at Family Sports Center before beginning one of its longest homestands of the season.
The Avs open a five-game home stay on Friday with their second and final game against the Pittsburgh Penguins this year. The homestand is tied for the longest of the campaign (also Feb. 11-19) and also features visits from the Dallas Stars (Jan. 14), San Jose Sharks (Jan. 16), St. Louis Blues (Jan. 18) and Detroit Red Wings (Jan. 20).
So far this season, Colorado has earned a 25-15-4 record, including an 11-7-2 mark on home ice, but the team is looking to improve during this extended stay in its home building.
"I don't think we have been as good as we wanted to be here at Pepsi Center, we haven't been as good as we wanted to here recently in some of our games, just inconsistencies in our game," head coach Jared Bednar said after practice on Thursday. "So, whenever you lose, to be quite frank, if you lose one we are already trying to get things back on track and we haven't been good enough here lately. I would say the urgency and the desperation in our club should be going up here over this next five games, especially at home with a chance to reestablish ourselves."
The Avalanche has played 24 games on the road so far this year, tied for the most in the league, and has skated in 20 contests in its home barn, tied for the second fewest in the NHL.
"We have been on the road now and kind of miss home--not in a way that is just the family everything, it's just like our building is buzzing," said Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. "Even in the last few (home) games we lost the games in the third, but the crowd was there helping, pushing. It is kind of a little bit of puts your mind with kind of confidence a little bit to know that you are going to have the seventh player on the ice with you, and they do a good job so it's fun to be home."
Colorado fell 3-2 in overtime in the first game of the season series against the Pens on Oct. 16 at Pittsburgh. The Penguins are third in the Metropolitan Division with a 26-12-5 mark and have gone 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.
"It's a team that even if they lost a few guys, important guys, they have been racking up points, they have been battling teams at home and on the road trying to find the right way," Bellemare said of Pittsburgh. "I feel like it's a team that has an identity that they have had for a few years and even if it's not a team that been as a Cup contender like they have been maybe a few years ago, they are working in a really solid way that gives them always an option to win the game… It's going to be a tough game and actually I think it is what we need for us to get back on track, a really tough game."
After practice, head coach Jared Bednar noted that Joonas Donskoi is in concussion protocol after taking a high hit from Ryan Lindgren at the end of the first period of Colorado's game at the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
Donskoi ranks fourth on the team with 29 points (14 goals, 15 assists) through 44 games. His 14 goals tie his career high, a mark he has set twice previously (2017-18 and 2018-19 with San Jose).
With Donskoi out, Andre Burakovksy was moved to a line with Nazem Kadri and Valeri Nichushkin, a spot that Donskoi had been at for the start of the game against the Rangers.
Colorado's other lines at practice featured Matt Nieto alongside Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Matt Calvert, and Tyson Jost, J.T. Compher and Vladislav Kamenev making up another trio. Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen remained on a line together as well.
Kamenev is expected to return to the lineup with Donskoi out. He has played in 18 games this season, recording one goal and four assists. He registered a helper in his most recent outing, a 5-2 Avs win at the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
Practice Line Combinations
92 Gabriel Landeskog - 29 Nathan MacKinnon - 96 Mikko Rantanen
95 Andre Burakovsky - 91 Nazem Kadri - 13 Valeri Nichushkin
83 Matt Nieto - 41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - 11 Matt Calvert
17 Tyson Jost - 37 J.T. Compher - 81 Vladislav Kamenev
27 Ryan Graves - 8 Cale Makar
49 Samuel Girard - 6 Erik Johnson
16 Nikita Zadorov - 28 Ian Cole
44 Mark Barberio
31 Philipp Grubauer
39 Pavel Francouz
Did Not Practice: Joonas Donskoi (concussion protocol), Colin Wilson (lower body, out indefinitely)