The Avs were back on the ice Wednesday for the first time since defeating the San Jose Sharks 6-3 on Monday night.
Two topics of conversation among those in the locker room following the skate were the looming milestone of Jarome Iginla’s 600th marker and the gory details of Gabriel Landeskog’s swollen face.
Iginla scored goal No. 599 in Sunday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Arizona, so Iggy-Watch has officially been on since his first-period tally in that game.
“Yeah, I’m excited,” the veteran forward said of the possibility of scoring against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. “It should be a great atmosphere in the building, and being at 599, I’ll try to be ready. But I’m trying to score every game, so it doesn’t feel like the focus will be that much different.
“Hopefully it happens sooner than later, but [Thursday] will be just about playing and being ready to be good and solid to help the team.”
Iginla went on to emphasize that despite his former team, the Calgary Flames, coming to town on Jan. 2, he doesn’t care who he scores the milestone against, as long as it happens.
“I’m not picky. I’ll take anything,” the 38-year-old said. “Tomorrow at home, on New Year’s Eve, I’d love to.
“If you ask me if I’d rather do it on the road or at home, yeah I’d rather do it at home.”
With Landeskog, questions were geared more toward his overall health and ability to play after he took a puck to the face on Monday night.
“There’s no fracture, nothing broken. So I feel good,” the Avalanche captain said. “It looks scarier than it really is, and for me, there’s no pain. Just the swelling really is the only thing that bothers me, but other than that, I’ll be fine.”
The young Swede will be playing with an extended visor on Thursday night to protect his face while it heals.
“Yeah, we put a bigger visor on, just really for my own safety for the next couple games, and we’ll see how that feels,” he said. “It feels fine. Like I said, it’s just really superficial right now, and it doesn’t bother me.”
For everyone, the true focus is on the match against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, who the Avs defeated 3-0 in Chicago on Dec. 15.
“There’s going to be a lot of Chicago fans in the building, but we’re going to have to have a strong game and try and keep them quiet,” head coach Patrick Roy said after practice. “We just want to focus on tomorrow’s game [and] not worry about what we’ve been doing in the past against these guys.”
Roy said he is moving forward with the same lineup as in Monday’s win, though Semyon Varlamov will return to the crease.
“No change up front,” Roy said. “Varly will play tomorrow.
“[Brandon] Gormley played really well the last two games with [Zach] Redmond. They’ll continue to play together.”
Colorado will look to carry over Monday’s success into Thursday’s meeting, which includes a power play that went 4-for-6.
“The thing that I like about our power play right now is we’re moving crispy passes,” Roy said. “We’re moving it faster and, if we lose the puck, I like the way we’re competing to get that puck back.”
Tenacity around the biscuit, on either side of it, is part of the game plan for Chicago.
“I think it was just a matter of playing hard on them and taking time and space away from them,” Landeskog said of what worked the last time the two clubs met. “We wanted to play with the puck and we wanted to make sure we controlled the pace, and we’re going to look to do that tomorrow as well.
“We studied their game and we know what they’re going to do.”
While the Avs have been moving up the ranks thanks to a 9-3-1 record in December, there is too much time remaining in the season to constantly be checking their position in the Western Conference playoff race.
“You always watch the standings, but you don’t try to make a big thing of it because there’s so much hockey left to play,” Roy said. “A month and a half—about—ago, we were like 10-12 points behind Nashville. Now, we’re five points behind them. We’re getting closer, but there’s a lot of work to be done before thinking about getting ahead of these guys.”
Roy also provided an update on defenseman Brad Stuart (back), saying that he needed to check with head athletic trainer Matt Sokolowski, but he thinks the veteran is close to returning.