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Avs Prepare for Northwest Battles

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche will embark on an important stretch in the coming weeks, playing five of its next six games within a stacked Northwest Division. Colorado will face Minnesota at Pepsi Center on Thursday (followed by a game against Nashville) before taking to the road to play at Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. The tail end of that divisional stretch will come Nov. 20, when the Avs return to Denver to finish a home-and-home set with the Flames.

This stretch of games will be key for Colorado, as it gives the club an opportunity to make up some ground in the standings.

“We have a lot of division games coming up, but the most important thing is to focus on playing your best game tomorrow,” said Avalanche head coach Tony Granato. “It’s the old sports cliché, and it’s really so true in our sport, as it is in every sport, that the only thing you can do is worry about winning your next game.”

As an intriguing by-product of the NHL’s new schedule, the Avs’ Nov. 18th game in Calgary will serve as their last stop in Canada for some time. Colorado will stay within the United States for nearly four months before finally venturing back to the Great White North for a road swing that includes a March 14 contest in Edmonton and a matchup against the Canucks at General Motors Place the following night.

While the Avalanche’s players and coaches aren’t looking that far ahead quite yet, the team has ample time to prepare for the slew of important matchups on the horizon.

Colorado is currently at the front end of a stretch where it will play three games in 11 days. This comes on the heels of its recent back-to-back set against San Jose and Chicago.

From November 4-14, the Avalanche’s schedule includes only Thursday’s game against Minnesota, a Saturday (Nov. 8) tilt against Nashville and a Wednesday (Nov. 12) matchup with the Canucks.

“It’s a double-edged sword, because sometimes you want to get to the next game to forget about the last one,” said Paul Stastny. “At the same time, we had the day off yesterday to forget about what happened last game. That helps us focus so we can get back to playing how we were earlier in the season.”

Small Line Changes
Ian Laperriere and Darcy Tucker will most likely play on a line together during Thursday’s contest. While Granato is not ready to make wholesale changes to his lines, he stresses that with such a long season, sometimes subtle modifications need to be made.

“Over an 82-game season, there’s going to be some little adjustments you make to tweak your lines,” said Granato, who also commented on the possible Laperriere/Tucker combo. “Certainly, when you have them on both of the wings, they should be crashing and banging, and hopefully stirring up a lot of positive things for our team.”

Loose Ends
Avalanche captain Joe Sakic left Wednesday’s practice early after he felt his back starting to tighten up, but Granato said he doesn’t consider the injury to be serious…Peter Budaj will start in goal against Minnesota…The netminder holds a 6-5-2 record with a 2.78 goals-against average in 14 career outings versus the Wild.
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