With only 12 contests left in the regular season, the Colorado Avalanche looks to make a statement in the standings and move closer to a playoff spot with its next three road games.
Colorado faces the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, the Calgary Flames on Friday and the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday to close out a Western Canada trip before returning home for two contents next week.
Head coach Patrick Roy did not address the media after practice on Tuesday, but on Monday he said that goaltender Semyon Varlamov would be in net against the Canucks and the Flames and Calvin Pickard would face the Oilers.
The Russian netminder knows the fate of the Avalanche is in the club's hands.
“This is a big trip coming up for us, absolutely. Everybody knows that it’s going to be important,” said Varlamov. “But it’s not only this trip, it’s all 12 games. They are really important for us. Right now, playing playoff hockey every game, like the last game, that’s how we need to play.
“Every point for us is important. At the end of the year it could cost us, or it could help us. That’s the thing about those last 12 games, so we need to be really focused on the last stretch of the season and try to win most of the games.”
Defenseman Tyson Barrie observed a maintenance day on Monday as he was healing a minor hamstring injury, but he participated in the full practice on Tuesday to prepare for Vancouver.
“It’s massive. This is a big, big three-game road trip for us,” Barrie said. “It’s frustrating, obviously, dropping that one to Winnipeg, and the way that we did it. But we had a good long meeting today, and we have addressed a lot of things. We are excited, and we are a determined group in here.
“Obviously we are disappointed by [the loss in Winnipeg], but by no means is that the end of our season. We got 12 games left to play some great hockey and get ourselves into a playoff spot.”
Roy was asked on Monday about the significance of the trip, and he was quick to bring attention to the prominence of every game through the end of the season.
“They are all important ones,” he said. “We are down the road here and [all the] games are important games, but unfortunately we have to play one at a time. We are going to start with Vancouver.”
LOOKING AT THE STANDINGS
As the regular season comes closer to its end, the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference is heating up. Colorado is currently tied with the Minnesota Wild at 74 points for the eighth seed, but Minnesota holds the tiebreaker with a game in hand.
“I think we don’t care about the standings anymore. It’s up to us how we want to finish the season. It’s up to us [on] how many games we want to win,” said Varlamov. “I think we have been tired of looking at the standings all year long, watching those teams, how they are playing, if they [lost] or they won. It doesn’t matter anymore. We just need to win our games.
“That’s my mindset. That’s how I try to focus. I don’t want to think about anything else, I just want to think and focus on [winning] the games. We need to win most of the games, and we are going to make the playoffs.
Barrie agreed with the goaltender that it is important to focus on what is in front of them, as opposed to all of the remaining games at once.
“I think there are so little games left, you know how big they all are, but it’s imperative that you focus on one game at a time,” said Barrie. “If you start worrying about who is after, who is next, you start writing games off and start thinking that we are going to beat Vancouver no problem. That’s when you get in trouble. So we are totally focused on the Canucks tomorrow.”
After the road trip concludes, the Avalanche plays four more games away from Pepsi Center this season, and all are against Central Division teams. Colorado visits Nashville twice, and St. Louis and Dallas once each.
Defenseman Chris Bigras took the ice for the second day in a row Tuesday morning, but this time in a red non-contact jersey. He has missed the past three games after suffering a head injury against the Nashville Predators on March 5.
On Monday, Roy said Bigras had one more test to pass before he would be available to play in a game. With Roy not talking to the media after practice on Tuesday, it is unclear if Bigras will be cleared for the contest against Vancouver. The defenseman was a full participant in Monday's practice.
The 21-year-old rookie was recalled from the San Antonio Rampage on Jan. 13 and has skated in 23 games with the Avalanche. He registered his first career point with an assist on Jan. 16 at Columbus and scored his first NHL goal on March 1 at Minnesota.