For many, the focus with the Colorado Avalanche is on the outstanding 4-3 comeback win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night. After a beleaguered first period that saw the Avs fall to an early deficit, the home team fought back, taking control late in the third period to win the match. It was Colorado’s third victory in the last four games.
But for the players that comprise the Avalanche roster, that game is a distant memory, a tiny blip buried in the looming shadow of tonight’s contest against the Arizona Coyotes. The focus is on the Coyotes, and the game against Carolina is merely a blueprint of what to do moving forward.
“We want to build off that,” said rear guard Nate Guenin. “We want our first period to replicate the last two periods of the previous game.”
“That was big, just for our confidence. And to have one of those at home, it’s certainly big,” said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who will be counted on for more of the same tonight in Glendale, Ariz.
“We’re going to keep going. We’re going to be working hard out there, and we want to lead by example and hopefully guys will follow,” Landeskog said. “For us, it’s about protecting the puck and playing down low and being hard to play against. We know the scoring chances will come, but what we do with them, we need to be a little better.”
Landeskog and his linemates, Nathan MacKinnon and Jarome Iginla, were instrumental in Saturday’s sprint to the finish. MacKinnon finished with three assists on the final three Avalanche tallies, Landeskog fed Iginla for the tying goal—and assisted on Erik Johnson’s goal in the second period—and Iginla hit defenseman Zach Redmond with the puck as he crept toward the crease, helping with the game-winner.
That’s the kind of effort that head coach Patrick Roy says he wants from that kind of stacked line, especially with nine players—Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jesse Winchester (head), Patrick Bordeleau (back), Jamie McGinn (back), Dennis Everberg (shoulder), John Mitchell (leg), Semyon Varlamov (groin), Brad Stuart (hamstring), and Alex Tanguay (facial fracture)—out with injuries, and MacKinnon and company know it.
“Hockey’s not that complicated. The game isn’t as hard as you make it out to be sometimes as a player. I think it’s important for us to be leaders,” said MacKinnon. “Obviously, we have some guys out, some key players for us. It’s important for us to set the tone for the whole group.
“We need to take charge. We need to be leaders on this team offensively, and play an all around solid game. Obviously, it’s important to get off to a better start than we did against Carolina. We’re not always going to be able to rebound like that. It was a good character win for us last game but, I think for us especially, we need to play simple, give-and-go hockey, get on pucks and get some possession.”
The keys to a good game, the way Guenin sees it, harken back to Roy’s goal of keeping things simple.
“Good start, playing our game, getting to the net, getting to the hard areas, not trying to put on a show and make it a pretty game,” Guenin rattled off. “If we get to the net, it will create room for our forwards and they’ll be able to use their speed in the offensive zone. This is a chance for us to leapfrog them and get closer back into that playoff picture.”Injury Update
When pressed about the long list of injuries—there’s currently nine Avalanche players out with various maladies—Roy offered updates on the guys that are progressing following Monday’s practice:
“Mitchell is day-to-day, McGinn is being evaluated every day, Stuart is not progressing like we’d like to [and] we’ll have more in the next few days. Varly is doing really well, and we’re going to be very cautious again with Varly. When he’s
|Alex Tanguay |
going to come back, he’s going to be like 110 percent.”
Veteran forward Tanguay, who took a point-blank Alex Ovechkin shot to the face on Thursday night, was on the ice for practice Monday, and spoke about the incident afterward.
“It’s a reaction. I was trying to block the shot. Threw my stick in there and unfortunately the puck came up on me,” Tanguay said. “It’s the third time in three weeks I [got] hit with a puck in the face, so I hope my turn [has] passed.”
When asked about the moments after the impact, Tanguay iterated that it wasn’t a pleasant feeling.
“Not fun. First half hour to an hour after, you have that feeling where you want to throw up. It didn’t feel good,” he said. “Then [I] got to the hospital, gave me some medication, and [I] was able to relax there. I felt fine after the medication.
“I saw the CAT scan. I saw the fracture. The bone’s not displaced, so I guess that’s a good thing.”
Tanguay was sporting a full face shield—which offers additional protection for his cheeks and jaw—at practice.
“Feels fine. It doesn’t bother you,” said Tanguay of the change in equipement. “There’s a little bit of an adjustment when the puck is in tight, but I’ve played with it for 20 years before getting to the NHL. It shouldn’t be a problem.”
While Tanguay did travel with the team to Arizona, he won’t play tonight due to lingering symptoms from his injury.