Fifty games down, 32 remaining in the regular season. If the Colorado Avalanche hopes to make up ground in both the Northwest Division standings and the Western Conference playoff race, the time is now.
“We have to have some urgency and a little bit of desperation in our game,” said forward Darcy Tucker. “We played pretty well in spurts the last couple of games, but we need to put a whole game together to get the two points.”
The Avs will face a big test on Monday when they continue their eight-game homestand by hosting the Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center. The Flames, who lead the Northwest Division and sit third in the Western Conference with 64 points (30-14-4), have won three straight and are 14-3-1 in their last 18 games.
However, one of those three losses was to the Avalanche; a 6-2 Colorado victory on Jan. 18 at Pepsi Center.
“We jumped on them early in that game, put a lot of pucks on the net and used our momentum,” said Tucker. “For us to be successful, we have to have everyone play the same way. We can’t stray away from our system for two or three minutes, because it will cost us. It’s a really big game for us tomorrow.”
The Avs are 14-13-0 at Pepsi Center this season, and hope to wrap up their season-long eight-game stretch in Denver on a positive note after opening it with a 1-5 mark. Colorado will end the homestand Thursday against Dallas.Budaj In
Peter Budaj will get the start in goal on Monday. He has started each of Colorado’s previous five meetings with Calgary this season, posting a 1-4-0 record. Despite the losing record, Budaj has put up some solid performances against the Flames.
He posted a career-high 47 saves in a 4-1 loss on Nov. 18 and then turned aside 32-of-33 shots in a 1-0 defeat on Nov. 20. Budaj posted a victory in his last outing versus Calgary - the previously mentioned 6-2 win on Jan. 18 - during which he posted a 39-save performance.Special Teams a Big Factor
Although the Avs’ penalty kill has been struggling lately (they have allowed a power-play goal in 10 straight games), the club has ramped up its own power play production in recent games.
In the last five contests, Colorado has totaled six power-play tallies in 21 opportunities (28.6%) and scored multiple goals with the man advantage on two occasions. The Avs hold a 17.3% success rate on the power play (36-of-208) on the season.
“Both of those (power play and penalty kill) are huge aspects for any winning team. Right now, one of them is going and one isn’t,” said center T.J. Hensick. “We need to get them both going at the same time, especially the penalty kill. I think that’s the bigger of the two. If we can frustrate their top players and shut them down it’s only going to help us.”
In addition, both Ryan Smyth and Milan Hejduk
have notched short-handed goals during that five-game span, matching the team’s total from the entire 2007-08 campaign. Overall, the Avalanche has scored four goals while short-handed this season.