PHILADELPHIA—It's been nearly the same story in the Colorado Avalanche's games this season: play a close contest but head home afterward with a one-goal loss in tow.
Six of the Avs' nine losses this year have been decided by one score, and that doesn't include a 4-2 setback last Thursday after the Arizona Coyotes scored an empty-net tally.
Coming off a 2-1 defeat to the New York Rangers, the Avalanche hopes going on the road will help the team start flipping those results in its favor. Colorado begins a seven-game trip this evening in Philadelphia.
Head coach Patrick Roy is ready for his club to take the next step and turn those close losses into wins.
"We know it's not enough. We have to find a solution," Roy said after the club's morning skate on Tuesday. "Structure wise, I think we're doing a good job. We've been telling everyone 'we're close, we're close,' but at the same time we're not that close because we're losing all those games. I think if we can be a little more relentless 5-on-5, the power play. If we can get a big save here, a defensive play there and a big goal from our forwards or anyone, it certainly could turn things around."
Colorado is coming off a game on Friday where it played solid for nearly 60 minutes, but a couple breaks went the Rangers' way. In a matter of 21 seconds, New York scored after the puck caromed off the end wall and landed in the slot where two Rangers were waiting, and on a tough-angle shot that deflected off goalie Reto Berra's blocker.
Despite the tough-luck bounces, veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin echoed his coach's statement that the Avs need to score a big goal late and tighten up defensively.
"It is frustrating, but at the same time we can't feel sorry for us," Beauchemin said of the one-goal losses that have been piling up. "We just got to keep working hard, try and get a little more dirty in the net area, jam in there, keep working harder. We can't say, 'we were close, we were close.' Close isn't enough. We just have to work harder to get those goals."
Still, there are positives the Avalanche can take from its recent losses. Against the Rangers, the Avs had more shot attempts, face-off wins, took fewer penalties and scored on the power play.
"We've been playing good lately. We haven't gotten any wins," forward Carl Soderberg said. "If we keep playing like that, like the New York game, like the San Jose game, and a couple others, we're going to get wins eventually."
Jack Skille agrees that the club just needs to keep doing the right things and play a simple game, and the victories should follow.
"You can't stress enough in here that we have to play a full 60, stick to our game plan and make sure we're playing as a five-man unit out there," he said. "I think that is just simple hockey. Getting it out, getting it in, creating turnovers off the forecheck, letting them make the errors and worry about ourselves. I think that is the key, and I think that is what we're focused on in here."
NHL DEBUT FOR MARTINSEN
Though he has played professional hockey for much of the last nine years in Europe, left wing Andreas Martinsen will finally write his name in the NHL ledger.
The Bærum, Norway, native is expected to make his debut in the top league in North America tonight as the Avs take on the Flyers in Philadelphia.
The 25-year-old has played pro hockey in Norway, Sweden and most recently Germany, where he registered 41 points (18 goals and 23 assists) in 50 games with Dusseldorfer last season.
Signed as a free agent this past summer, Martinsen started this year with the Avalanche's American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio before being called up on Sunday.
"I’m going to try and do my best and do what I can do to help the team, and hopefully we can get a lot of wins," he said after Monday's practice.
Martinsen will begin the game on the fourth line with center Ben Street and right wing Jack Skille.
BERRA TO START
Colorado goaltender Reto Berra will get the nod in net this evening after stopping 31 shots in a close loss to the Rangers on Friday night.
This is the second time this season that the Swiss netminder has started in back-to-back contests. His last consecutive game performance was on Oct. 16 and 18 when he had a 35-save shutout in Anaheim before stopping 38 shots in a 2-1 loss at Los Angeles two nights later.
Berra right now sports a 1-3-0 record after playing in five games and has a 1.85 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.
Roy said after Monday's practice that he will make a decision on the starting goalie for the upcoming contests after Tuesday's game.
Here are the Avs' projected forward lines and defensive pairings for tonight's game in Philly.
Gabriel Landeskog—Nathan MacKinnon—Matt Duchene
Blake Comeau—Carl Soderberg—Jarome Iginla
Cody McLeod—Mikhail Grigorenko—Dennis Everberg
Andreas Martinsen—Ben Street—Jack Skille
Francois Beauchemin—Erik Johnson
Nick Holden—Tyson Barrie
Brad Stuart—Brandon Gormley