Elliott, who was recalled in the wake of a knee injury to Erik Johnson, will be filling in for offensive defenseman Tyson Barrie, who is officially day-to-day with a hip flexor ailment, according to Avalanche coach Patrick Roy.
“Barrie won’t play tonight. He has a hip flexor. Elliott will take over for him,” Roy said Thursday morning. “I expect him to play the next game on the road in [Minnesota].”
Replacing Barrie’s five goals and 25 assists won’t be easy for Elliott, but the position certainly plays to his strengths as an offensive-minded rear guard. The 24-year-old has 12 goals and 14 assists through 40 games with the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL this season and recently represented the club at the AHL All-Star Game and skills competition in Utica, N.Y.
Having been with the club for a week’s worth of practices, Roy feels that Elliott is ready to step in and play.
“He came about a week ago and had a chance to practice with our guys, and I think he’s ready to play. We have a lot of confidence in him, and we’re more than convinced that he’s going to have a good game,” said Roy, echoing a sentiment that Elliott shares.
“It’s exciting. I’ve just been waiting for an opportunity all year to step in, and I think I’m confident and ready,” said Elliott. “It’s nice getting settled and getting a few practices under my belt, getting comfortable with the style of play. It’s been good.
“I’m just out there to help the team win.”
Elliott and the rest of the Avalanche have a tough test ahead of them in the Red Wings. Detroit is 8-2-0 in it’s past 10 contests and is 12-8-3 on the road. Notorious for a tight game at both ends of the ice and top-notch passing, Detroit nevertheless presents an opportunity to collect two important points in the race for a postseason berth.
“It’s an important stretch in our season and we know it’s a tough schedule, but at the same time it’s a nice challenge for our team. We’re playing against a team that’s playing really well,” said Roy. “There’s a lot of depth in their lineup—a very well-balanced team. I think it will be a good test for our team tonight.”
While Colorado has employed a segmented approach when looking at the remaining schedule, focusing on what it can control, there is still an awareness of where the Avs fall in the ever-changing Western Conference playoff picture.
“You look at the standings right now, and it’s five or six teams that have a chance and are right around that wild card spot. It’s certainly going to be a couple of exciting months of hockey here,” said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. “For us, we want to keep playing and keep playing hard.”
That means building on some of the past success that the Avs have had lately, like beating the top-dog Nashville Predators 3-0 last Friday in Denver and overcoming a 2-0 deficit in the third period to defeat the Dallas Stars in a shootout on Tuesday.
“Obviously, we have to play the same way like we’ve played the last few games. I don’t think we’re going to change too much,” said defenseman Jan Hejda, who will work on shutting down Detroit’s lethal forwards. “From us, from defensemen, we need to be right in their face, [not] give them too much space. I don’t think there’s [anything] we need to change.
“It’s going to be a similar game. Obviously, they have very good forwards there. [Henrik] Zetterberg and [Pavel] Datsyuk [have] lots of experience. If we don’t give them any space, nobody likes that in the league. So this is going to be the way to play against them.”
Colorado presents its own threat on home ice, something the Red Wings are no doubt aware of. The Avs are 6-1-0 in their last seven home games—12-5-3 in the last 20 games overall—and have had success at both ends of the ice.
“We’re playing really well at home as well. We’re coming off an important win in Dallas, and we just want to continue. We just want to build on those games,” said Roy. “We just want to continue to play well defensively and continue to generate some offense, and get closer to our objective, to find a way to get back in a playoff spot.”
Regaining traction in the playoff race comes with getting points at every single opportunity.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against, we need every point. We all know that our conference is really tight right now and every point matters,” said Hejda. “It really doesn’t matter who we play against.”
“We’ve got two big division games coming up this weekend,” added Landeskog. “So we want to take care of business at home, keep playing well at home as we have lately and just keep going.”
ZACH AND JAN
Avalanche defenseman Zach Redmond got the nod to jump into Erik Johnson’s spot on the top defensive pairing after the latter had arthroscopic knee surgery late in January, and the 26-year-old blueliner has been having success.
|Zach Redmond |
“He’s very good. He’s a solid defenseman, both ways—D-zone and offensive zone too,” Hejda said of his new partner. “I think it’s working well so far, and hopefully we’re going to stay on the same page.”
Redmond being an an agile, offensive-minded rear guard, similar to Johnson, certainly helps Hejda with the transition.
“They are similar. Erik is probably even more offensive. He’s trying to jump in every rush, so it means I have to stay back all the time, and with Zach I have a little more freedom. So sometimes I can support [the] offense,” said Hejda. “It’s not a big difference. I’m still a defensive defenseman, and he’s still more offensive. We just talk about our plays and the game a little bit more than with E.J., because with E.J., we already know what to expect from each other. We’ve talked about some situations with Zach, and it’s working well so far.”