TAMPA, Fla.--All eyes will be on how the Colorado Avalanche responds tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning, two days after head coach Jared Bednar said he's looking to correct the club's attention to detail.
"Hopefully we're playing fast, we're skating hard, we're competing hard; that we have a certain purpose that we want to play with tonight," Bednar said following the team's morning skate at Amalie Arena. "We didn't like our game the other night in Washington, so I'm hoping that we can respond and have a really solid game here tonight."
Bednar reaffirmed the position he took after Tuesday's loss to Washington, saying that attention to detail is the difference between his team winning and losing in most situations. It wasn't the score that Bednar said bothered him, but rather how a loss of focus resulted in a one-sided contest.
He'll be looking to see that turn around this evening.
"We might not have been as sharp to start the game like we did in Washington, but that doesn't mean we can't play sound to our systems and structure and everything like that. We might be coming off a back-to-back or something like that and might not have our A-game, but you can still stick to the details and find a chance to still be in the game," said defenseman Erik Johnson. "We were only down 1-0 after one, so we were right there. We just kind of got away from how we needed to play to be successful. I think when things start going against you or your own way, you kind of want to try and be a little too individual."
Video: Erik Johnson talks about responding
Freelancing in hockey can pay off now and then, but most of the time it just results in breakdowns in other areas. That's something the team is looking to rectify in Tampa when it attempts to stick to the structure.
"I feel really good on an individual basis, but team success is where you have the most fun. When you're winning hockey games, that's the best part of being on a team. While it's fun to contribute on an individual basis, it's always good to come in after a game and have a win and celebrate with your teammates," Johnson said. "For me, just trying to control the tempo of the game a little when things can get a little hectic. Just try to slow things down or be a calming influence out there and not add insult to injury when we might be running around. Sometimes I'm guilty of that, like a lot of guys, but if you have good intentions and you're out there working hard and are doing the right things night by night, you get rewarded. So that's what I've been trying to do."
The adjustment starts on a team level, and Colorado's players and coaches sat down prior to today's practice and discussed a plan of action for tonight's tilt.
"We had a good meeting this morning about what we have to expect from one another, and what we need to be better at," captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "We know what we have to correct, and obviously the starts haven't been good enough as of late. So we definitely have to pay extra attention on the start when we come out, and I think everyone is going to be hungry from the Washington game."
Video: Gabriel Landeskog after the morning skate
Expect a hungry and tenacious Avalanche club to come out tonight when the puck drops at 5:30 p.m. MT at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Expect a team game and a solid response, because that's what the players expect from themselves.
"I think you'll find us tonight a little bit closer together," Johnson said. "If we're coming out and within five feet areas of each other, we're going to have a better chance of getting the puck out of our zone. We got way too spread out against Washington. We were going 'D' to 'D,' back to 'D' across the rink, and that's much too easy for the other team to counter. I think you'll see us a little bit closer together in the zone tonight coming out of our own end, and that will be way more beneficial for us."
"I know the guys in the dressing room and I know we'll respond, and I know we'll come out and play hard and give our best and find a way to win," Landeskog added. "I think going into this season, it's important after a loss that you find a way to bounce back."
PK MOST IMPORTANT
Slow starts haven't been the only thing hurting the Avalanche so far this season. Slow starts coupled with penalties and sloppy penalty killing have resulted in Colorado falling to early deficits in each of its three games played.
That's something Colorado is hoping to change this evening, but it requires solid work on special teams.
"It's going to be important. Just like [with] any team, it can be the difference in a game. Our PK hasn't been good enough," Landeskog admitted. "You let in two goals a game; it's not going to be nearly good enough. Our power play was OK the first two games, but we need more scoring on special teams."
In their first two contests, the Avs were able to counter their PK struggles with some man-advantage scoring, but that wasn't the case in Washington when they were held scoreless in the 3-0 defeat. But it isn't just goals that Bednar is looking for during special teams play, it's winning the other aspects of the situation that can lead to scoring success.
Video: Coach Bednar's pregame press conference
"We got to start paying attention to some of the details. I think it's a commitment thing, and it starts with our attention to detail. There is certainly some things that we could do," Bednar said. "Faceoffs is one of them. [We] didn't win any draws on the penalty kill the other night, so you spend some time in your zone. We had some chances to clear the puck, didn't get it down 200 feet, they kept it in and had some secondary chances off of that. I just think sticking with the structure that we have in place on the penalty kill [is key]. Too many guys kind of on their own page in that and not committed to what we are supposed to be doing structurally… hurt us a little bit, too."
Knowing what went wrong last time will go a long way in preventing it this time, and the Avs are ready to focus on themselves, but at even strength and in other scenarios.
"I think you'll see us playing smarter tonight. We got a little too spread out last game and it's hard to play together when we're so far apart on the ice," Johnson said. "I just think you'll see a more efficient team tonight. I think we were a bit scattered last game, a little scatterbrained and fatigue might have played a factor in that, but it is still early in the year so there are no excuses. I just think you'll see hopefully more of a compact game from us."
BEN SMITH JOINING THE 200 CLUB
Avalanche forward Ben Smith will return to the lineup Thursday night to play in his 200th NHL game as Colorado takes on the Lightning.
The 28-year-old forward has 50 points (27 goals, 23 assists) in his 199 games played and joined the Avs as a free agent on Aug. 15, 2016. Smith played four seasons with Boston College prior to making the leap to professional hockey, and he won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2012-13.
Smith is replacing Rene Bourque, who is day-to-day with a groin injury.