Desperation is a motivator for some and has worked for the Colorado Avalanche at various points throughout this season. It is also what the Avs hope to bring to the table tonight against the top-dog Chicago Blackhawks in a quick road trip to the Windy City.
“It’s easy to get up for, and it’s an important one. We’re going to be desperate out there, and that’s what’s going to make it fun,” said Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog. “It’s an important game for us, and we want to play well on the road again and get back to the winning side of things on the road. It’s a great opportunity against a division opponent, and it’s usually a fun game to play.”
One thing about a matchup against one of the best clubs in the West is that the games are always entertaining, with credit given to both teams involved. In fact, according to rear guard Nate Guenin, the Avs could learn a thing or two from the way Chicago goes to work.
“I think, as a whole, they play the right way. That’s something we’re striving to do,” Guenin said.
“Their top end, their skilled guys, they’re not afraid to chip pucks in and get to the net. If you watch them, it’s not always pretty, but they get results. I think it’s something we’ll try to emulate.”
“To be honest with you, any team that the Chicago Blackhawks are going to play, it’s going to be an exciting game,” added Landeskog.
The energy that any team feels in United Center comes with the electric atmosphere of playing in such a rowdy space. The fans are involved from the start, cheering the National Anthem in a move that has become synonymous with the Blackhawks experience.
“You’re standing there [during] the anthem and the building’s just roaring,” defenseman Nick Holden reflected. “It’s easy to get the juices flowing and get you a little more amped up. I think, home or away team, you’re both getting something out of it.”
Colorado looks to bounce back against Chicago after having lost an interesting game to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the waning minutes of the match on Sunday night. Despite the fact that luck seemed stacked against the Avs throughout the evening, nobody is quick to shed the blame for the end result.
“We were on the bad end of some bounces, but we didn’t play a full 60 minutes, which puts us in a situation to get beat by a bad bounce,” said Guenin. “We had a great second period, lousy first, and the third, it’s not good enough. If you don’t play a full 60, that’s how you get beat by bad bounces.
“You can’t have the huge discrepancies in the periods. You can’t have a great period like [the second] and then a complete opposite end, like we had in the first. It’s just playing hard, the right way, and you’re going to see more periods like the second than the first.”
The Avs aren’t quick to dwell on what has gone behind as there is plenty of work to get to, starting with tonight’s game against Chicago.
“Last few weeks, we’ve been kind of focusing on that, just focusing game by game. Win or lose, you’ve got to just put it behind you, and focus on your opponent,” said Holden. “We love playing Chicago ‘cause it’s always such a good game and they’re such a good challenge. So these ones are really easy to get up for.”
The Avalanche defense will certainly have its work cut out for it, battling to silence scoring threats like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Kane has eight tallies and 18 apples in 28 contests versus the Avs—including two multipoint games this season (Nov. 26 and Dec. 27)—while Toews, Chicago’s captain, has 13 goals and 15 assists in 27 games against Colorado.
“He’s very strong on the puck, strong on his skates. He’s the leader of that team, and he’s the guy,” Guenin said of Toews. “He’ll get to that net and he’s hard to get out of there. He knows you have to pay a price to score goals, and he possesses a lot of weapons. So, as a defenseman, it’s a big challenge but it’s an exciting challenge.”
“I think we match up well against these guys,” added Holden.
The puck drops at 6:30 p.m. MT tonight in Chicago.