So while the building hasn’t been totally dormant, it’s ready to rock again tonight as the Avs return to action at home after going 4-3 on a season-high seven-game road trip.
Colorado’s focus this evening is not having a drop-off after such a grueling trek across North America.
“It’s good to be back. It was a good road trip for us, eight points out of 14,” Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said of the journey. “Especially, winning the last game. It was a big win for us. It was probably the most important game on that road trip. We’re pleased with the way we played on the road.”
Returning home after a big 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets has the Avs feeling confident, but there’s no time to relax as the club is 2-5-1 at Pepsi Center this season.
“It feels good just to be home after that long road trip. The last game, that game is huge for us,” defenseman Francois Beauchemin said following Wednesday’s morning skate. “Obviously, we need to get back to .500, and not only that, we need to start playing better at home. We haven’t had very much success since the start of the season.”
Other than sleeping in their own beds and driving their own cars and wearing fresh clothes, there’s no relief for Colorado’s players and coaches.
“I’m not relieved because it’s an important game for us tonight and we need to play better at home,” Roy said. “We need to find ways to win games at home, especially key games, and tonight it’s a good test for our team.”
The Ottawa Senators are in town, playing in the second game of a back-to-back stretch. This provides the Avalanche with the perfect chance to hit the reset button after being away for so long.
“We’ve got to come out hard, physical. We all know what it’s like to play back-to-back and travel,” forward Blake Comeau said. “It’s not the easiest thing in the world. That being said, they’re playing some really good hockey right now. We’ve got to expect that they’re going to come out with their best, so we’ve got to be ready.
“I think a big thing is getting into it early. Every guy, I think, gets involved differently. So whether it’s trying to get a shot on net, making a hit, whatever it is, we’ve got to be ready to go. We’ve got some ground to make up. It was a big win for us in Winnipeg, but that being said, it was just one. We’ve got to string some wins together.”
It will be a fierce and hard-fought match in Denver, but starting the game off with energy and setting the tone early will be key to Colorado pulling out a victory over a potentially tired Senators team.
“We want to jump all over them. It’s tough to play at altitude,” said Matt Duchene. “It’s going to be tough for us too a little bit because we didn’t skate yesterday—most of us. The air’s going to be thin. We’re going to have to get our legs under us quick and [have] short shifts, but we want to go hard on them.
“They had a tough game last night. Obviously, [it was] a high-scoring kind of wide-open game. Those sometimes take as much out of you as those tight checking ones. We want to be ready. They’re playing really well, and we’ve got to bring our best tonight.”
Duchene has been an offensive whirlwind of late, racking up 17 points (10 goals, seven assists) in the month of November. His line, which features Gabriel Landeskog (seven assists) and Nathan MacKinnon (five goals, six assists), has combined for 35 points (15 goals, 20 assists) in that same timeframe.
While that trio is clearly firing on all cylinders, the Avalanche will need secondary scoring to roll over from the win over the Jets as well. Colorado’s line of Carl Soderberg, Cody McLeod and Blake Comeau combined to tally three goals in the 4-1 victory.
“That was huge. That was the key to the game,” Duchene said of productivity from all areas in Monday night’s match. “Obviously, Carl scores the first one on the power play, and then McLeod has that one in front of the net. He could have one or two early in the first period, so it was nice to see him get a good bounce on that one. Then, we felt like we still had one in us as a line and fortunately we were able to get one.”
“We’ve got to realize what we had success with [in Winnipeg],” Comeau added. “I thought we did a good job offensively. We didn’t give up a ton of shots, and I think we generated offense out of that. You see McLeod’s goal, it’s just guys going to the net—Duchene driving the net. We’ve got to keep doing that. We played a solid game… for most of the game in Winnipeg. That’s going to be the key tonight.”
ZACH IS BACK
The Avs recalled rear guard Zach Redmond on Nov. 12, adding the 27-year-old’s talents to the blue line when needed. While he didn’t play right away, Redmond has made an almost immediate impact since his 2015-16 NHL debut in Pittsburgh.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenseman has two points—both assists—in his last two games and has seen his ice time rise from 9:14 in his first contest on Nov. 19 to an average of 13:51 per night since then. He had seven points (three goals, four assists) and a plus-6 rating after 11 games with the San Antonio Rampage to start the year.
So what has been fueling his early-season success?
“Just trying to capitalize on my opportunities and make sure that when you do get those chances, you’re not tight on your stick or anything,” he said. “You’re just kind of focusing and I guess playing a little easier. I guess that kind of helped, going to the minors [to] kind of get that touch back and a little bit more confidence that way. [I’m] definitely bearing down on the chances lately.”
Redmond said his fresh frame of mind, brought on by being reassigned to the Rampage in October after playing all of last year’s campaign with Colorado, has provided him with the tools to achieve positive results.
“I guess I kind of have a little bit of a new outlook this year. It’s been a crazy start, and I guess it just kind of helps you put things in perspective,” Redmond admitted. “A lot of where you play and everything is out of your control, and the only thing you can control is how hard you work and how you play. I’m just trying to have fun and embrace the opportunity like I think you have to every time, and so far so good.”
The D-man is expected to play in his fourth straight game with the Avs tonight.
Gabriel Landeskog—Nathan MacKinnon—Matt Duchene
Cody McLeod—Carl Soderberg—Blake Comeau
Andreas Martinsen—Mikhail Grigorenko—Jarome Iginla
Dennis Everberg—Chris Wagner—Jack Skille
Francois Beauchemin—Erik Johnson
Nick Holden—Tyson Barrie
Brandon Gormley—Zach Redmond