CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Coming off of a 5-3 victory over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, the Colorado Avalanche is emphasizing the importance of remaining even-keeled after going 5-4-0 through the early campaign.
The Avs took the ice at Family Sports Center for 45 minutes on Thursday morning before traveling to face the Vegas Golden Knights for the first time this season. The team worked on its 5-on-5 play and finished practice with an attention to special teams.
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov has been between the pipes for six games this season and has faced more than 30 shots in four of those contests. Varlamov will get the start in Vegas, and his teammates will be looking to give their netminder more help in front of him.
"I think when we are playing well we are doing a lot of good things but we have to have that effort more often," Matt Duchene said after practice. "We are too up and down right now. I think of our five wins, I think Varly stole us night one and I think the rest of them we did a really good job. He has still been facing too many shots. I mean 37 last game, that is too many, especially in the third period."
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said that he believes the way to find the consistency will be to focus on the fundamentals and the depth of the club's lineup.
"We got back to basics, we got back to doing the little things right," said the Swedish left wing of the team's play in Tuesday's victory. "We had some big performances by big guys. Nietsy (Matt Nieto) stepped up and that whole line, [Blake] Comeau and [Carl] Soderberg. Overall, I think all four lines were doing a great job of rolling over and doing the little things right, which is what we need from everybody. Ultimately it is our depth that is going to win us hockey games."
Playing a full 60 minutes and working on being steady throughout the season are the main details that Avs head coach Jared Bednar wants to take out of the first nine games of the campaign.
"I loved our start. I think if you look at the losses that we have, we weren't at our best in all of those games, at least not for 60 minutes," he said. "I've liked our work ethic, I liked the way our team has come together, you know, on and off the ice… Obviously, there are areas to improve. Our consistency has to improve and some of our puck decisions I think is still where our team needs to insure that we are making some smarter decisions."
The Avalanche's 10th contest of the season will be its inaugural matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights, and the first time that the Avs have gone to Vegas for a regular-season game.
Some may think of casinos and night clubs when they hear the words "Sin City," but the trip is purely business for Colorado.
"I mean it doesn't really matter for me where I am as long as you got a bed," said veteran defenseman Erik Johnson. "On the road, all we do is eat, sleep and play. That is what you are there for. You know for me, it doesn't really matter where it is, you are on the road you are there for business and that's it."
Vegas is off to a strong start with a record of 7-1-0 through its first eight games. The expansion team is on a four-game winning streak since suffering it's sole loss on Oct. 13 versus the Detroit Red Wings.
"We are going there to win a hockey game," said Landeskog. "That is what we are focused on. Come back with two points from Vegas and then making sure that we are ready for Chicago on Saturday."
The early successes for the Knights do not necessarily change the way that the Avalanche prepares for this game however.
"Every team you play against is going to be good, is going to give you a tough match up. I don't think there is any underestimating them. They are a hard-working team," Johnson said about facing the club for the first time.
Friday's afternoon contest in the desert will be the Avs second back-to-back set of the season, as they return to Colorado after the game to face the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday evening.
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar before flight to Vegas
UPDATE ON COMPHER
After practice, coach Bednar gave an update on when he anticipates rookie forward J.T. Compher will need to return to the lineup.
Compher broke his thumb in the team's 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 19 after attempting to block a shot. He has been able to take the ice in a red non-contact jersey and work on some skating-only drills with the coaches.
"The timetable that I have been given is around three weeks instead of that six to eight mark," Bednar said. "The positive side to that injury is he gets to skate every day, keep his legs and stay conditioned. He is going to get evaluated--I think it is again next week that they will look at it.
"We have talked about possibly giving him a playing brace so he can start feeling the puck a little bit, so when they give him the clearance that he is basically ready to go for us [he can play right away]. I am guessing that three-week mark, some place in that Sweden trip, but I am speculating a little bit there."