CENTENNIAL, Colo. – The Colorado Avalanche was on its practice ice at the South Suburban Family Sports Center for the final time this season on Thursday morning before the team headed to the airport for a flight to Phoenix.
Colorado will close out its season this weekend with back-to-back contests, Friday night against the Phoenix Coyotes (8 p.m. MT, TV: Altitude 2) and Saturday at home against the Minnesota Wild in its fan appreciation game (5:30 p.m. MT, TV: Altitude).
While the Avalanche will miss the playoffs, left wing Jamie McGinn said these last two games are still important and that the team wants to finish the season on a high note.
“We want to finish strong. We want to win these next two games,” McGinn said. “We can play a spoiler role, we don’t want to make it easy on any other team.”
This weekend’s games will be Colorado’s ninth set of back-to-back contests in this 48-game season, which includes six sets in the final five weeks. Colorado played 10 back-to-back games last year, but that was spread out over a six-month span.
“It’s the nature of a season like this when it’s compact, you don’t get much rest,” said center Matt Duchene of playing nearly as many back-to-back games in a shorter time span. “It’s been grueling, but I think most guys have felt good throughout the year.”
Head coach Joe Sacco said that Jean-Sebastien Giguere will get the start in net on Friday against the Coyotes, and he’ll see how that game goes first before deciding on the starting goaltender for Saturday’s season finale.
“He’s earned the right to play again, and he’s played well for us this year,” Sacco said of Giguere, who is 3-0-2 in his last five appearances.
Sacco also said that veteran right wing Milan Hejduk will not play on Friday, but that he will play the following night against the Wild.
On defense, Erik Johnson (wrist) could possibly play in Saturday’s game as he participated in his first full practice with the team, but he still needs to be cleared to play. Johnson has missed the last five games with a wrist injury that he suffered on April 11 at Los Angeles.
Fellow defenseman Ryan Wilson skated before practice, but his return this season from a nagging ankle injury doesn’t seem likely.
Avs Added To Team USA Support Staff
Assistant coach Tim Army was named to Team USA’s coaching staff on Thursday for the IIHF Men’s World Championships in Finland and Sweden on May 3-19.
Army previously served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team in 1994 and 1996, and he helped the squad capture the bronze medal at the 1996 IIHF Men’s World Championship. He also served as an assistant with the U.S. World Cup Team in 2004.
Joining Army and Sacco – who was named the U.S. head coach for the tournament on April 15 – is Avalanche video analyst and advance scout Scott Masters, who will serve as USA Hockey’s video coordinator.
Line Combinations During Thursday’s Practice
Landeskog – O’Reilly – McLeod
Mitchell – Duchene – Parenteau
McGinn – Stastny – Kobasew
Bordeleau – Malone – Palushaj
Vincour – Olver – Hejduk/Jones
Zanon – Barrie/Johnson
O’Brien – Hunwick
Hejda – Elliott