The Colorado Avalanche will be looking to forward Mikhail Grigorenko when the team takes the ice against the visiting Vancouver Canucks tonight.
With consistency still an issue, head coach Jared Bednar is hoping that reuniting Grigorenko on a line with Carl Soderberg at center and Matt Duchene at wing will spark the young Russian's potential.
"We know Grigs can help us win. We just need him playing on top of his game, and I think we saw a lot of that through exhibition and early in the season," Bednar said following his club's morning skate at Pepsi Center. "For me, his 5-on-5 play has kind of taken a little dip. He's not as involved as we'd like him to be. He's a guy that's a real intelligent player, that can make plays.
"I'd like to see him pick up the pace of his game a little bit here and get more involved and try to be a difference maker, not settle in on the bottom six. We need him to be a top-six forward. So we're going to give him an opportunity to go there after pulling him out of the lineup. Hopefully he steps up."
Coming off a one-game stint as a healthy scratch, Grigorenko said he's ready to show what he can do with his former linemates.
"We started the season together, and we were clicking a little bit there. I think we can make a lot of things happen, especially offensively," the 22-year-old forward said. "They're both great players. Dutchy has been real good this year, so it's a big opportunity for me. I'm looking forward to the game."
Video: Mikhail Grigorenko on play with Duchene & Soderberg
Offensive output has come and gone for Colorado in the first quarter of the season. When the team is firing on all cylinders, it looks as dominant as any squad in the league. When it isn't, the struggle is real.
"When we play the right way, the way we're supposed to play, we're a pretty good team. So we just have to make sure we play that game for 60 minutes," Grigorenko said before elaborating on the issue of discipline. "I think it all comes from that. You stop moving your feet and get away from your game a little bit [and] you start to take some penalties here and there. That's why it happens, so we just have to stay focused throughout the game and everything should be fine.
"I think we just need to play a full 60 minutes, stay focused and not get away from our game."
The Avs have another chance to get back to a .500 record on the year, a place they've struggled to move beyond.
"Obviously, we're chasing that right now. It would be nice to have it behind you and kind of keep in front of it, but we want to be one of those teams that just doesn't lose two games in a row," defenseman Patrick Wiercioch said. "Obviously, we got away from that early on this year, but I think that's a good identity to start with and if you can do that, I think you'll have success over the course of the year."
Video: Pregame interview with Patrick Wiercioch
The Canucks enter Saturday's matchup in a similar situation. Consistency is the word bandied about when talking about either club's inability to maintain a solid performance, and both will be looking to iron that out when the puck drops at 8 p.m. MT.
"There's lots of parts of the game that are going right, we just haven't been able to put it all together in one night," Wiercioch admitted. "When our goaltending has been outstanding, at times our power play has let us down or our PK has let us down or we've just been undisciplined that night. So we've got to focus on all aspects and zero in on all of them for a consistent 60."
"I was just looking through some of their stats yesterday and today, and [we're] mirror images of each other. Tough putting wins together," said Bednar. "They're 2-2-1 in their last five, and we're kind of on the same path. Just bouncing around, having a little bit of trouble with our consistency, and I'm sure they are too if we're kind of sitting in the same spot in the standings. Big game for us tonight, and for them. It should be a hard-fought game, I would think. Both teams should be hungry."
Twenty-one-year-old netminder Spencer Martin was recalled from the San Antonio Rampage yesterday to serve as the backup to starting keeper Calvin Pickard for Saturday night's matchup.
With Semyon Varlamov nursing a minor upper-body injury, Martin will provide support to the club while he's here.
"It's obviously pretty exciting. It's an awesome opportunity to show the progress I've made down in San Antonio and also learn from everybody here," Martin said after his first NHL morning skate. "I think I just need to address it like a pro and be ready, just like every game as a backup. [Pickard's] got his own thing. He's going to be ready to go, but I will too."
Video: Martin called up to NHL for first time
The Oakville, Ontario, native said he found out about his first call up after an on-ice session in Texas.
"I just got called in after practice in San Antonio, and they told me I was going up," he said. "I was like 'I'm going up?' It just kind of caught me off guard because I've never been called up before, but it's pretty exciting. My family is excited to watch on TV, and it's fun."
Martin's family has the added benefit of the tilt being a nationally televised meeting with the Vancouver Canucks, as the game is featured on Hockey Night in Canada.
"That's pretty special too. The family's got the NHL package, but they're going to watch this one on Hockey Night in Canada," Colorado's prospect said. "It's a dream come true."
Martin has gone 8-5-0 and posted a .924 save percentage with the Avalanche's AHL affiliate, serving as the top goalie while Jeremy Smith has been out with an injury. Martin's 731:35 of game action is ranked first among rookie tenders and his 2.21 goals-against average puts him fifth among the freshman.
His play dictated his recall.
"He's had a great start. He's off to a career start for him," Avs coach Jared Bednar said. "Look at his numbers in the American League. His save percentage is good. His goals against is good. He's 8-5. The coaches speak highly of what he's doing down there, and our guys have been down to watch him and everything. So he's certainly deserving of the call up.
"Obviously, we're hoping we're going to get healthy here soon and that Varly will be back. We're not expecting that to be a long delay. He's just going through something upper body right now. So we're going to keep him off the ice again today, and hopefully get him back into practice here in the next couple days."
Although captain Gabriel Landeskog had skated for three straight days, his lingering lower-body injury prevented him for making it four in a row on Saturday.
"Didn't skate today. Said he's a little sore today, so he just did some treatment. Off-ice stuff today," Jared Bednar said of Landeskog's status. "I don't know if it's a setback, but we're just going to take it day-by-day until he's ready to go, right? Obviously, he skated the last two days. Joined the team for part of practice yesterday, and today he's feeling it a little bit. So we won't know more until he shows up tomorrow or even later today. Then [we'll] see how he feels, see if he's good to skate again tomorrow."
Landeskog has been out of the lineup since finishing the third period of Colorado's 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 15.