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Colorado Keeps Focus On Vegas

The Avalanche wraps up the home-and-home set at the Golden Knights on Monday

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Saturday's shootout win against the Vegas Golden Knights at home was exciting for the Colorado Avalanche, but the club has to move on from it.

The schedule won't allow the Avs to enjoy victories for too long with the team playing every other night. The next game is Monday against the same Golden Knights squad, but at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas as the teams wrap up the home-and-home series.

"Our focus is game-to-game," said head coach Jared Bednar. "The game that we're playing is the biggest game of the year now, and it's going to continue to be like that until the season is over."

Colorado defeated Vegas 2-1 at Pepsi Center to remain in the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 90 points, but the team is far from secure in making the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues are all just one point behind the Avs, who will play each squad in the final week of the regular season.

The Avalanche has seven games left in the last 14 days of the 2017-18 campaign, and the only team it has a game in hand on is the Kings.

"This time of year, you're kind of trying to avoid the emotional roller coaster," Bednar said. "We came off a low against L.A., and then we win a big game against Vegas and we're on a high. Then you watch the standings at night and everyone else wins so you kind of get back to a low. We're just trying to tell our guys that we just got to take care of our business and make sure we're controlling what we can control, and that's our play and preparation for the next game and getting ready to go."

Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar talks Vegas Golden Knights

If Saturday's contest was any indication of what the next meeting might be like, then expect another evenly-matched outing. Colorado and Vegas both played a quick, transition game, received stellar goaltending and had a stymie defense to limit high-scoring chances against.

There were 70 total shots on goal on Saturday, but more than a third of them came from the perimeter. The Avalanche will aim to find a way to create more opportunities in the interior of the ice on Monday in the third and final game between the clubs this campaign.

"We have to try and get in their zone. Their D is strong," said Carl Soderberg, who tallied Colorado's only marker in the previous contest. "They played overall a good defensive game. They're tough to play against, and hopefully we score a couple on them. Get some more goals."

The Avs held an optional practice at Family Sports Center on Sunday, and most of the team participated in the roughly 30-minute session before heading to the airport.

Spencer Martin was the only Avalanche goaltender of the three that are currently on the active roster who took the ice, as Jonathan Bernier is recovering from an infection from a cut and Semyon Varlamov rested after making 39 saves the previous day versus the Knights.

Varlamov is expected start in Monday's contest, which would mark the 21st straight game that he's played in. He is 10-4-4 since Feb. 14, but he's been even stronger for the past four weeks. In 14 games since Feb. 26, Varlamov has an 8-2-3 record, 2.18 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.

"At this time of year, your best players have to be your best players," Bednar said. "You're going to need to get elite goaltending and the other guys got to chip in and do their job and know their role. I feel like we're at that spot as a team. I think guys are doing all they can to help our team win, and there is no selfishness involved in that."

The Vegas game is the only stop for the Avalanche on this trip, as Colorado will host the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks at Pepsi Center later in the week.

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