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Monday's Practice Report

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Despite a recent 1-4-1 stretch, there is little panic in the Colorado Avalanche’s dressing room, and there’s a good reason for that.

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“The last few games we’ve been close,” said defenseman Ryan O’Byrne. “There are some areas we need to improve on, but we know we can play with the top teams in the league, and we showed that against Detroit and Vancouver, which is a great sign. At the same time, we’ve lost four in a row at home. There is some urgency.”

The biggest key for the Avalanche will be trying to walk the line between having that sense of urgency and not gripping their sticks too hard in an effort to make something happen.

“It’s a fine line,” noted forward Kevin Porter. “In practices you have to come out and be loose, make sure you’re not too tense, and have good practices because that’s where it starts. During the pre-game skate you have to come ready and focused. We don’t want to panic, but we definitely have to come out and play well against Buffalo tomorrow night. We need to start getting on a winning streak here, because the Western Conference is so tight.”

As previously alluded to, almost every one of the Avalanche’s recent defeats has been a close contest. Of the five defeats over the team’s last six games (including the overtime loss against Detroit on Dec. 27), four have been one-goal games. The lone exception was a 5-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 21.

“Once you’re out there gripping the sticks and afraid to make plays, that’s where you really get into trouble,” said O’Byrne. “I think as a group we have a whole bunch of confidence still. Pretty much all of the games we’ve lost recently were within one goal, so we know we’re right there. We just need to push that extra little bit harder.”

Cumiskey Getting Closer
Injured defenseman Kyle Cumiskey (concussion) took part in most of Monday’s practice, and while Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco said there is still no definitive timetable for his return, he did state that the blueliner will join the team for a full practice sometime later this week.

Cumiskey has appeared in 11 games this season, the last of which came on Oct. 30 against Columbus.

There wasn’t much other news on the injury front coming out of Monday’s practice. Chris Stewart (fractured hand) skated by himself before the rest of the team took the ice this morning, and like Cumiskey, there is no timetable for his return. Forward Cody McLeod (groin) didn’t skate and remains day-to-day.

Budaj To Start Against Sabres
When the Avalanche takes on the Sabres Tuesday night, Peter Budaj will be between the pipes. It will be the second start since Dec. 4 for the netminder, who has posted a 9-6-3 record with a 3.05 goals-against average in 19 appearances this season.

Budaj appeared in both of Colorado’s games that were sandwiched around the holiday break, stopping all 18 shots he faced in a relief effort on Dec. 23 against Minnesota and then getting the start on Dec. 27 versus the Detroit Red Wings.
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