The Colorado Avalanche returned the ice on Wednesday, spending more time on special teams and situational hockey as the exhibition game against the Minnesota Wild nears.
Head coach Jared Bednar spoke to the media afterward on a video conference call, along with Mikko Rantanen and Ted Lindsay Award and Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon.
Colorado Head Coach Jared Bednar
On If There's Such A Thing As Too Much Intensity In This Training Camp: "No, I don't think so. Not at this point. That's what we're looking for out of our leaders, and I think Nate (MacKinnon) does a really good job with that. Getting in 5-on-5 drills that are scrimmage-based or game situational stuff, where we have to try to create offense or defend, especially end-zone play, I want to see that intensity. It's hard just to flip a switch to go from scrimmage mode and summer mode straight into very meaningful games. The intensity level will go up in a hurry, so the more prepared we are for that the better off we're going to be. So I'm relying on our leaders to dial this thing up until we play our first game, that exhibition game. And that goes for special teams as well. We know that goaltending is going to be a real big key going into the playoffs, as it always is, and special teams are always a big factor in success or failure. We have a hunger to score on our power play. We know we wanted to improve from the regular season, and Nate's doing a really good job driving that intensity in that game situation stuff. Not just in practices but in scrimmages too, putting high demand on our guys to score on every opportunity we get."
On Defensive Depth: "I think our depth at all positions has improved over the last few years. If you look at this year on the back end, we've got our regular guys who've been playing (well). But you look at the development of a guy like (Conor) Timmins, (or) Bo Byram, who has shown much better in this camp than he did in his first camp in the fall, after a really good season in junior again. And then you take guys like, say, (Kevin) Connauton, who had limited playing time with us this year, but when he did come up to play he played well. And guys like Barbs (Mark Barberio). You start adding that all up and we have eight, nine, 10 guys in there and some guys who have played for us in the past and been really good minor leaguers for us the last few years like (Anton) Lindholm. So there are more options there and depth than we've had in years past. And again, that's [general manager Joe Sakic] and his staff giving us the tools to succeed, and now it's up to us to get the job done."
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar after Day 8 of summer camp
Colorado Center Nathan MacKinnon
On Why This Is The Best Avs Team Of His Career: "Well I think our record speaks for itself. We were [two points] out of first in the West with a hurt team all season. I think when our team's healthy, we've lost one or two games all year. So I guess for that reason, and then if you just look at our lineup, compared to other years, we're so deep. We have such amazing players, we have no weaknesses. We're actually one of the best defensive teams all season--I think we're top eight or something in defensive metrics--along with obviously our goal scoring, which is kind of what we're known for, but we definitely play on both ends of the rink. We take pride in that. We're very deep, and we have a lot of talent as well."
On Award Recognition: "It's cool. I think when I really turned my game around, and I really started to focus on every little detail off the ice and on the ice, I'm up for some big awards two out of three years, I don't think that's a coincidence. Obviously getting older and more mature help, but I definitely had to dial it in, in every aspect of my game. I had some tough seasons to figure that out, and once I did it's obviously very rewarding. I know a lot of people close to me are proud, but like I've always said, I think to leave a legacy you have to win. That's not what I'm really looking to do, leave a legacy, but I want to win with these guys. We're such a close group, and everyone wants to see each other succeed. Obviously with my teammates being so amazing. I've played with some really great players and they make my life really easy out there."
On Practicing With Rantanen And Landeskog: "Well, I mean, we don't need to practice with each other. Right now we're with Burakovsky, Mikko and I (on the top line), but we always have that option of throwing the three of us back together. We've played hundreds of games together. I've played seven years with Gabe and four years with Mikko, and a lot of ice time and power play together. I'm sure in certain situations, if we're up a goal or two in the last couple minutes of the period, we'll be out there, the three of us. And the chemistry isn't going anywhere, so we feel good out there."
Video: Nathan MacKinnon on NHL Awards and Training Camp
Colorado Right Wing Mikko Rantanen
On Avs Potential At Almost Full Health: "I think it's a big thing for us. When we're healthy, I think we have four really good lines, three D pairs, and two goalies. So I think that's what you need in the playoffs if you want to go deep. You need a healthy lineup and four good lines to roll over. If you look at the past Stanley Cup winners, everybody has four good lines and a good lineup all the time. So it's big for us."
On Why MacKinnon Deserves MVP: "Well, (because of) the way he plays. You don't have to say too much when you watch him play. With the injuries we had this year, we had a lot of key players out of the lineup, and the way he stepped up always when we needed him in tough games. It's tough when you're missing six, seven guys who are usually in the lineup, and then you have to kind of carry the team. Guys did a good job stepping in, but he was the horse leading the army kind of. So I think for sure, my pick for the MVP and he should win it."
On If He's The Facilitator On The Top Line: "Both of them (MacKinnon and Burakovsky) have a really good shot like we know, but both can pass too. So I don't think we talk too much about roles. Obviously, we know that in the O-zone Nate likes to play a little bit higher and I like to be a little more down low. That just comes automatically when you play together and have chemistry. Maybe I'm more of a passer in that group."
Video: Mikko Rantanen after Day 8 of Training Camp
Quotes transcribed by Colorado Avalanche's Zach Shapiro