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Big Push On Avalanche Agenda

by Ryan Boulding / Colorado Avalanche

There are two games between the Colorado Avalanche and a four-day break thanks to the NHL All-Star Game and festivities, but that doesn’t mean that the team can coast through either matchup.

Colorado faces the San Jose Sharks tonight and the Los Angeles Kings tomorrow, and both games contain dangerous clubs and precious points—points that can keep the Avalanche in stride in its push for better playoff positioning.

“Sometimes it can be tough, but I think right now, as a group we have no time to take any games for granted,” Matt Duchene said of this stretch. “We want to stay in the place we’re in and keep going. We’re doing a good job of that. Obviously, it would be great to go into the break with a six-game winning streak.

“You’ve just got to take each game as it comes. You know, this game is easier than the very last one. Your head starts wandering a little bit. We’ve got to be good pros and stay focused and take care of the task at hand. There’s a lot to play for right now, and we’ve got to make every game count.”

San Jose has traded victories with the Avs already this season, and tonight marks the third of four meetings between the two squads. With the Sharks looking to gain ground in the Pacific Division and Colorado trying to maintain its wild-card spot, there is little room for error on either side.

“This is a huge road trip for us. We just came off a back-to-back, and we’ve got another one before the break here,” defenseman Tyson Barrie said. “We know we’ve got a good San Jose team and a tough barn to win in tonight. We’re going to try to keep that momentum we have going. It’d be great to get these two [games] before the break.”


MCLEOD MILESTONE

Avalanche veteran and alternate captain Cody McLeod will reach a personal milestone when he takes the ice tonight at SAP Center in San Jose. He will be appearing in his 600th NHL game.

Cody McLeod

McLeod will become the ninth player in franchise history to reach the 600-match mark and the fourth skater to do so with the Avalanche. He joins Milan Hejduk (1,020), Joe Sakic (870) and Adam Foote (763) in the exclusive club.

McLeod has accrued 114 points (64 goals, 50 assists) since Colorado signed the 31-year-old as a free agent on July 6, 2006.

A hockey-the-hard-way kind of guy, McLeod is a physical and emotional cornerstone of the Avalanche. His 1,251 penalty minutes are a Colorado record and place him fifth in franchise history behind Dale Hunter (1,562), Steven Finn (1,514), Paul Gillis (1,351) and Foote (1,279).

Alex Tanguay could be the next player to skate in 600 contests in an Avalanche sweater, and he could do it as soon as this season. The veteran has 587 games with the burgundy and blue under his belt.


ROMAN WILL

The Avs recalled goalkeeper Roman Will from the San Antonio Rampage on Monday night, and he’ll get his first taste of regular-season NHL action tonight, albeit from the bench.

Roman Will

Will is the expected backup of starting netminder Calvin Pickard, who was scheduled to get the nod in net in San Jose.

This is the 23-year-old’s first assignment to the Avalanche.

Will was the featured goaltender at today’s morning skate at SAP Center as Pickard, along with a few other players, remained at the team hotel due to illness. Although Pickard didn’t partake in the pregame activities, Colorado head coach Patrick Roy maintained that the New Brunswick native would still play this evening.

“With Picks not feeling good this morning—so is [Erik Johnson] and [Mikhail] Grigorenko—we’re going to have everybody coming to the rink tonight,” Roy said of the developing situation. “Then we’ll make decisions at game time. Picks said he’d be fine to play tonight. That’s a good thing for us. He’s a strong kid. He battles hard, and if there’s someone that could come back tonight and play a strong game for us, I think it’s him.”

In preparation for his return to the rink at the alumni game on Feb. 26 at Coors Field in Denver, Roy donned pads of his own and took to the vacant net opposite Will this morning, working to continue shaking off the rust of retirement.

“I remember why I retired, and I think that was the right call then,” he joked after the skate. “You know what, I think it’s fun for the guys. It’s fun for me as well. It prepares me for the outdoor game, and it brings a lot of memories every time I’m going back there.

“It was fun to be on the ice this morning.”

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