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Avs Staying Even Keel During Record Start

Colorado continues tough road trip against the defending champion Blues

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

ST. LOUIS--There have been a lot of check marks in the win column for the Colorado Avalanche through this season's first eight games, with several of them coming against opponents considered Stanley Cup contenders.

Outings against the Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Tampa Bay Lighting and Washington Capitals have all ended in victories for the Avs and their 7-0-1 record has propelled them to the top of the standings.

The Avalanche's most recent win against the Lightning might have been its most impressive through the first two-plus weeks of the 2019-20 marathon. On the second half of a back-to-back on Saturday, Colorado won 6-2 against the defending Presidents' Trophy winners that tied a league record with 62 victories last season.

"After doing a little bit of video, it looked like our best game in terms of details to take care of the defensive zone," said Avalanche veteran forward Colin Wilson. "So moving forward, we just want to keep those."

Head coach Jared Bednar said following the win on the gulf coast that it was probably his squad's most complete contest of the season. Two days later and after reviewing the video, he still held that sentiment.

"What I liked most about that game is that we check real hard," Bednar said. "We were willing to check for our chances, so we [forced them to] turn pucks over and created secondary scoring opportunities. Just good all-out commitment on the defensive side of it. We still created as many or more scoring chances as we have in any game to this point this year. That is what we're selling to our team, if we're playing the right way then we'll create enough chances to score goals and have some fun in the offensive end."

Video: Jost, Francouz power Avalanche past Lightning

The Avalanche now gets to test its mettle against the defending champs themselves, as Colorado takes on the St. Louis Blues tonight at Enterprise Center in the first of five meetings between the Central Division clubs this season.

"They have a great team and they won last year. That always gives you more energy," said Joonas Donskoi on facing the most recent Stanley Cup winner. "It's kind of always a good test to see where you are at the moment."

After playing Eastern Conference teams for the last four contests, Colorado turns its attention back to the West and against a division rival. The Avalanche lost all four of the contest it played against the Blues last season, but three of them came in overtime or a shootout.

The Blues being the reigning champions adds another level of intrigue in a division matchup that could have big implications in the standings come April.

"Any time you're playing the defending Stanley Cup champions, they're always going to have a target on their back. It's been the same way for years," said Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog. "It doesn't matter if they're in your division or not. Obviously that sweetens some things and knowing it's a four-point game and how important it is. For us, it's a matter of us coming in and finishing this road trip on a good note and trying to keep this thing going."

This evening's game is the fifth stop of a season-long road trip for the Avalanche, which then plays at the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday. Colorado, which will return home for a few days after tonight before going to Vegas, is 3-0-1 on its first road trip of the season and has played all Eastern Conference squads to this point on the trek.

The Avs now begin a slate of games against Western clubs as seven of their next eight are against teams in their conference, including four within the Central Division.

"For us, it's a matter of continuing our momentum and keep doing what has been working for us," Landeskog said. "Playing with speed and taking care of the puck, which has been so-so throughout this road trip. But we've found ways to win hockey games and that is the most important part, so we just want to keep this thing rolling."

Video: Coach Jared Bednar pregame in St. Louis

Other than with Philipp Grubauer getting the start in goal, Bednar won't make any changes to his lineup. With the Avalanche out to its best start through eight games in franchise history, there isn't much need to modify an alignment that has been working and has featured contributions from all four lines.

Wilson was among those contributors last game at Tampa Bay as he had assists on all three of Tyson Jost's goals, while fellow linemate J.T. Compher finished the outing with two helpers of his own.

In the previous day's contest at Florida, Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky both had career highs with three points and two goals, respectively, in a 5-4 overtime win.

"It's been great, and that's the key thing during games," Donskoi said. "Sometimes a line may not be at their best so we might need some other lines to score goals and pick up their games. We have a lot of depth this year."

Video: Joonas Donskoi before Avalanche vs. Blues

The Avalanche has so far aced the early-season test, but success at this time of the year doesn't correlate to a championship in June--the Blues are a testament to that after going on a 30-10-5 run to close out last season. The Stanley Cup can be lost with a poor October performance, but it can't be won.

That is the level-headedness that the Avs currently possess and will need in St. Louis and for the remainder of the campaign.

"I don't think we've been satisfied yet in this room," Wilson said. "We all know that we can get better when we do video. We see how much better we could be as a team. A lot of areas to clean up. It's been a good start, but it's a long season."

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