Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy isn't afraid to mix up his line combinations during a game if the players don't seem to be gelling with each other.
The opposite is the case if the line is clicking on all cylinders. If it's working, don't touch it.
The Avs' third line—which includes center John Mitchell, left wing Alex Tanguay and right wing Dennis Everberg—is clicking as its been one of the team's best lines the last three games and has remained unchanged while Roy has tinkered with the other pairings in his top six.
Roy singled out the line after Tuesday's morning skate for playing so well together, and the trio showed why early in the first period against the Vancouver Canucks.
Mitchell scored the game's first goal just 1:15 into a 5-2 loss to the Canucks at Pepsi Center, with linemates Tanguay and Everberg picking up the assists.
The play began with Everberg finding Mitchell open in the Avalanche end and the center doing a nice stretch pass off the wall to Tanguay in the neutral zone. Tanguay took the puck into the Canucks end before dropping it in the high slot for Mitchell, who was trailing behind and soon unleashed a wrist shot over the glove of Ryan Miller and into the back of the net.
"I just tried to move it up to Tangs quickly," Mitchell said. "He was slashing across, a little bounce off the boards. He's a smart player, and I think he saw me coming in a little late so he cut across the blue, took a couple guys with him. He kind of just put it on a tee for me, and I just picked a good spot."
It was Mitchell's second goal and Tanguay's seventh point (four goals, three assists) of the season, and it helped give the Avalanche early momentum in the first period that led to another tally later in the frame.
Roy has said that he wants his top three lines to possess both skill and grit, and the Mitchell-centered line has those qualities.
Mitchell has shown he can snipe shots from close and afar and isn't afraid to go into the dirty areas to knock away loose pucks and opposing players, while Tanguay brings a smooth shot and the smarts of a 15-year NHL veteran that has tallied 257 goals and 780 points in his career.
"He's been a great player for his entire career," Mitchell said of Tanguay. "He sees the ice so well. He hangs onto the puck. He makes smart plays all the time."
As for Everberg, the rookie appears to be getting well adjusted to the North American style of play after recording points in the last two contests. He tallied his first goal Sunday versus Anaheim, and his helper Tuesday against the Canucks marked his first assist. The Vasteras, Sweden native had spent the past five seasons with Rogle's junior and professional clubs in the Swedish Hockey League and the tier-2 Allsvenskan league before signing with the Avs in the offseason as a free agent.
Mitchell said Everberg plays a lot like Tanguay, helping create a smart and skilled line that Roy can play at any point in a game.
"He's ahead of his time because he's very similar," Mitchell said of Everberg. "He hangs onto pucks. He's doesn't panic. He has a lot of poise for a young kid, and that's great obviously.
"Hopefully, we can keep it going."
2013 DRAFTEES SQUARE OFF
Two of the top players selected in the 2013 NHL Draft faced off for the first time Tuesday in what certainly won't be their last meeting against one another in their pro career.
Vancouver's Bo Horvat, selected ninth overall, made his NHL debut and even took the opening faceoff for the Canucks. He played 8:52 and went 8-of-12 on faceoffs and finished with one shot.
Of course the Avs' top rookie from that draft class is Nathan MacKinnon. Selected No. 1 overall, he went on to win the Calder Memorial Trophy last season as the league's rookie of the year. MacKinnon finished with 18:38 of ice time and recorded four shots on goal against Vancouver.
PK STREAK EXTENDED
The Avalanche killed off all four shorthanded chances against the Canucks and has moved its penalty kill streak to 29.
It’s the club’s longest single-season streak since Oct. 31 to Nov. 17, 1998, when the Avs killed off 35 straight. Colorado did have a stretch of 31 consecutive kills over multiple seasons from April 11 to Oct. 14, 2006.
The last power-play goal against the Avs was Brad Boyes' overtime-winner for Florida on Oct. 21.