PHILADELPHIA--With just about two months remaining in the regular season, practice time is becoming more limited, but the Colorado Avalanche is making the most of the sessions it is able to get in.
Colorado had a 30-minute practice at Wells Fargo Center on Monday that had a focus on special teams before the team made the trek to Buffalo.
It was the fifth day in a row that the Avs were on the ice together after having nine full days off for the All-Star Break and the team's bye week. Looking ahead, the Avalanche plays nearly every other day for the rest of the season, minus a three-day window without a game from Feb. 23-25, with four back-to-back sets mixed in there.
"The schedule is going to get crazier and heat up so it is nice to have a few practices, especially on the road too because you have nowhere to be and you can go work on some things," said veteran forward Matt Calvert. "[Nathan MacKinnon] was just saying you got to get back to the lab and that is something we got to do the last few days here and try to get that rust off. We are excited for the next opportunity, and we need to get back in a winning trend here."
Video: Calvert talks Super Bowl and the next game in Buffalo
Andre Burakovsky and Nikita Zadorov each had a goal and an assist but the Avalanche fell 6-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, Colorado's first game since Jan. 20.
It was also the first contest of a five-game road trip as the club will face the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday and Ottawa Senators on Thursday before concluding the journey with a back-to-back at the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild this weekend.
"I think we played really well, maybe at the end they got their chances, they had a couple lucky bounces go in our net," Zadorov said of the matchup with the Flyers. "Still, a good focus for us. We are in a good mood today, we had a couple good practices two days in a row, getting ready for Buffalo for tomorrow."
Tuesday's game is the first of two between Colorado and Buffalo this season. The Avs won both matchups by a combined score of 9-1 last season, which included a 6-1 win at KeyBank Center on Oct. 11, 2018. The Avs are 14-3-0 in their last 17 games against the Sabres dating back to March 2007.
Buffalo is 23-22-7 so far this year, which includes a 15-8-3 mark at home, and sits 10 points back of the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 30 games remaining in the regular season.
Video: Jared Bednar before heading to Buffalo
"If you look at it, teams are so close and I think Buffalo is a really good team. They got some dangerous weapons, certainly can't take them lightly," head coach Jared Bednar said of Tuesday's contest. "When you look at the opponents that we are playing--its Philly, it's going to be Columbus--we are all so close in the standings when it comes to points that you know it is going to be a battle and I don't view Buffalo any different.
"We have had some trouble with them in the past, but I like the way we have played in there the last couple of years. We have to be hungry for a win because we didn't win here in Philly, so we need the points."
Despite the loss at the Flyers, Colorado is 3-1-0 in its last four games and 3-1-2 in its last six outings. Buffalo is 4-3-0 in its last seven games and earned a 2-1 overtime win versus Columbus on Saturday.
"They are fighting for their playoff lives right now, most teams are whether you are in first or second in the conference or ninth or 10th looking in," Calvert said of the Sabres. "They got a lot of talent, and they have been winning some games as of late. We got to be prepared for a great hockey game and like I said, we got to start winning some hockey games here.
"I think we liked a lot about our game and our energy [against Philly]. Obviously, you have 10 or 11 days without a game, and you are going to show a little rust, and I think we did and made some uncharacteristic mistakes. If we clean that up in Buffalo, I think we are going to have a good chance to win the game."
PRACTICE LINE COMBINATIONS
92 Gabriel Landeskog - 29 Nathan MacKinnon - 96 Mikko Rantanen
13 Valeri Nichushkin - 91 Nazem Kadri - 95 Andre Burakovsky
11 Matt Calvert - 41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - 37 J.T. Compher
83 Matt Nieto - 17 Tyson Jost - 72 Joonas Donskoi - 81 Vladislav Kamenev
27 Ryan Graves - 8 Cale Makar
49 Samuel Girard - 6 Erik Johnson
16 Nikita Zadorov - 28 Ian Cole
44 Mark Barberio
31 Philipp Grubauer
39 Pavel Francouz