The focus can only be on what is immediately ahead, not on the postseason, the final game of the campaign, the next home contest.
“It's an important game for us,” said head coach Patrick Roy. “I mean, they’re all going to be important, but I’d rather take one game at a time and focus on what we have to do—not focusing on the big picture, but one game at a time.”
Chasing Stanley starts with a playoff berth, and the only way to get there is through winning each match as it presents itself on the schedule, which is what the Avalanche is looking to do tonight in Vancouver against the Canucks.
“It’s huge. There’s not many games left in the season. Everyone is aware of where we are in the standings and what’s going on, so we know how important this game is for us,” forward Blake Comeau said after the morning skate at Rogers Arena. “I thought last time we were here, we did a lot of really good things. We generated a lot of scoring chances; we just couldn’t seem to put it in. So I think for tonight, it’s going to be important for us to get off to a good start.
“For the most part this year, we’ve done a good job of that, and then it’s just about following how we started: clean up the third periods a little bit, stay on our forecheck in the third and just close games out.”
There can be no memory of the last match, a 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, unless it’s to serve as a reminder that it wasn’t enough. Anything that has come behind must be cast aside. Last week, last night, last game, last period, they don’t exist in the collective consciousness of the team except to serve as a record of the season. The only thing that matters is this shift, this period, this game.
“You have to move on. You really do have to have a short-term memory,” Comeau said. “You can’t go into games thinking about what happened last game and being down on yourself. It’s important for us to be in the right mindset at the start of every game. I think everyone knows that we have to have a good road trip here in Canada.”
The Avalanche sits one point behind the Minnesota Wild (75) for the second and final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, and Wednesday’s contest provides the Colorado club with an opportunity to jump back in the driver’s seat.
“We have to play our game. We know they’re going to play well; they’re going to play hard,” head coach Patrick Roy said of Wednesday’s opponent. “We were in that position last year, and you play for something. You always play for something. Right now, we’re in a nice race with Minnesota.”
“We expect that it's going to go right down to the wire,” said veteran forward Jarome Iginla. “Every game is so important for us, it’s exciting to be in it right now. After our first month and a half or two months, we’ll take this position. We’re in a position now that we can focus on ourselves, not having to watch everybody [and] hope that there’s no three-point games or anything like that. We expect it to be a challenge and tough, but it’s fun. It’s fun to be in the mix, and we believe we can make it.”
The first stop on this current three-game road swing through Western Canada involves a team on the outside looking in, which makes the Canucks even tougher than normal.
“That's where you get into the tough situation where teams become dangerous when they’re playing so loose, but that’s hockey,” said blueliner Tyson Barrie. “We’re in a position where we’re where we want to be, and obviously these guys would like to be in our position. So we’re going to try and jump on them early and kind of squash any legs that they might get.”
“We’ve been on the other side when you’re chasing it, and they haven’t given up,” Iginla added. “This is a big game for them. We want to keep them down and climb ourselves. We can’t look at each line or whatever. We know the few guys you have to key on and try to stop, but at the same time we’ve got to make sure we’re energetic and playing aggressive and playing quick and stuff like that, which when we’re doing it, we have success.
“It’s a big game for us, trying to climb back into eighth. So it should be a fun one.”
Avalanche rookie rear guard Chris Bigras will miss Wednesday’s match at Rogers Arena.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound defenseman has been out of the lineup with a head injury since March 7, and his absence will continue until he’s deemed ready to return to action.
Unfortunately for Colorado, there’s no precise timetable for that.
“I’m not sure yet,” Roy said of when Bigras will be available. “He’s going to be reevaluated in Calgary, and if he’s cleared, then he’ll play. If he [isn’t], then we’ll wait.”
The 21-year-old skated in 23 straight games with the Avs after being recalled from the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL on Jan. 13, recording a goal and an assist in that span.
With Bigras out of the lineup, Roy said he’ll insert Andrew Bodnarchuk into the third defensive pairing with Eric Gelinas. There will be no other lineup adjustments.
Colorado blueliner Tyson Barrie may be playing on the road on Wednesday, but he’ll still be getting a bit of a home-ice advantage, just like every time he returns to the Vancouver area.
A native of Victoria, British Columbia, which is a quick helicopter, sea-plane or ferry ride away from the city by the sea, Barrie gets the opportunity to reunite with friends and family members when his team hits town to face the western-most Canadian club.
“I always love coming to Vancouver,” Barrie said. “It's close to home for me, and I think I’ve got about 20 or 30 people in the stands tonight, so it’s always a lot of fun. You want to play well and win in front of them.”
Having caught up with some family members for dinner on Tuesday night, Barrie said he can use the knowledge that he has a group of fans in the stands to feed off of when the puck drops.
“I think it's cool to have them all in the building,” he said. “I know they’re always watching on TV and stuff, but I think all the motivation we need is right in front of us with 12 games left and [being] one point out of a playoff spot. It’s an exciting time of year, and it’s a bonus to be able to play a big game like this in front of family and friends.”