CHICAGO--The Colorado Avalanche is 13-4-1 in its last 18 games with a .750 points percentage, the best in the league since Nov. 7, but the team believes there is room for improvement.
Colorado last played at the St. Louis Blues on Monday and fell 5-2--snapping a season-high, nine-game point streak (8-0-1) and a four-game road win streak--and the squad will look to start new streaks tonight at the Chicago Blackhawks.
"It wasn't our best performance. I think it could have been a good matchup, but we didn't play up to our standard whatsoever," said Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. "Going back to what we know we can do and what we have done on the road before--build a simple game and be a relentless team."
This evening's contest is the third meeting between Colorado and Chicago this year and the second and final matchup at United Center. The Avs won the first two contests, sweeping a home-and-home, back-to-back set on Nov. 29-30 with a 5-2 win in Chicago to open the series and a 7-3 win at Pepsi Center the following day.
In those first two outings, Colorado combined for 12 goals, the most the Avalanche has ever scored in a back-to-back set. The Avs also lead the league with an average of 3.61 goals per game, but they have to make sure to play their style of game in order to continue that offensive success.
Video: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare before the game in Chicago
"In this league now, it is definitely different than it was before, everybody can beat really everybody, and a team can have a great night, some teams can have a terrible night," said Bellemare. "[Chicago] is a team that has a lot of offensive power and we are going to have to be relentless on their D to be able to create offense out of our forecheck. When we are dialed in and when we are good, this is what we do best, so it is going to be the key.
"It is just like not worrying about the opponent. Just each player, each line, just focus on the job they have to do at hand and that's it. Don't focus about anything else than what you can do to help the team."
The Central Division rivals will wrap up the season series on Saturday night in the Mile High City.
NOTEABLES AGAINST THE HAWKS
Nathan MacKinnon leads all Colorado skaters with seven points (two goals, five assists) in two games against Chicago this year.
Mikko Rantanen tallied four points (one goal, three assists) in his one outing against the Blackhawks this year and has 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 12 career games versus Chicago.
Joonas Donskoi recorded a career-high four points (two goals, two assists) in the Nov. 30 outing against the Blackhawks in Denver.
Northbrook, Illinois, native J.T. Compher tied his career high with three points (one goal, two assists) in Chicago on Nov. 29, with both of his three-point efforts coming at United Center (also Feb. 22, 2019). He led the Avs with four goals and five points (tied) in five games against the Blackhawks last season.
Defenseman Anton Lindholm will make his season debut tonight. He was called up from the American Hockey League's Colorado Eagles on Sunday after registering one goal and one assist through 23 games this campaign. He has four assists in 62 NHL contests and with him entering the lineup, Calle Rosen will be the Avalanche's defensive scratch.
Pavel Francouz will be back in the crease for the outing. He is 7-0-1 with a 2.03 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in his last 10 games. Francouz was in net when the Avs visited the Blackhawks on Nov. 29 and made 34 saves on 36 shots.
With tonight's game being the first of a back-to-back set, Philipp Grubauer will get the start on Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"We were going to split them in this set anyway, so Francouz was good in Chicago last time," said head coach Jared Bednar. "Grubi is just coming off the injury so we will give him an extra day, play at home, try to get both of these guys firing on all cylinders again."
Video: Jared Bednar before the Avs visit the Blackhawks
Erik Johnson (lower body) and Cale Makar (upper body) are continuing to rehab their injuries back in Denver.
Head coach Jared Bednar said after Colorado's morning skate that Makar is feeling better, but he did not have a projected return date for the rookie blueliner. However, he said that Johnson is a possibility for Thursday's outing against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Johnson has been out since he sustained his injury on Nov. 23 versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he participated in a portion of the Avalanche's team practice on Sunday in a red, non-contact jersey.