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Practice Report: Power Play Coming Along

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
What a difference a game can make when dealing with early season statistics.

Heading into Monday’s contest against the New York Rangers, the Avalanche’s power play had been a point of concern for the club in terms of its statistical success. In Colorado’s first five contests, the power-play unit had converted on only two of its 18 chances (11.1%).

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But the Avs were perfect with the man-advantage against the Rangers, with Chris Stewart scoring a goal on each of the team’s two opportunities. Stewart first tipped in a John-Michael Liles shot/pass before later burying a Paul Stastny feed for his fourth and fifth goals of the season.

“I think it was just simplicity. When you’re struggling, you go back to basics,” said Stewart. “Just make sure you have someone net front, someone on the half wall and someone on the goal line.

“Paul (Stastny) is so skilled that we definitely want him to have the puck. He’s comfortable on the goal line, and if they want me to park in front of the net, that’s no problem. I’ll stand there and get shots. We have the right players on the power play, so sooner or later we’re really going to get the chemistry clicking.”

Stastny echoed Stewart’s thoughts.

“It’s about getting possession in the offensive zone and setting it up. Once you set it up, that’s where you can be creative because you have extra time,” said Stastny. “We just want to keep the puck moving, whether it’s from north to south or east to west, we want to keep their guys moving. The minute they stand still is when you get in trouble.”

Now, heading into Wednesday’s games, the Avalanche’s power-play unit ranks 10th in League, hitting at a 20-percent clip (4-of-20).

“That’s the thing about this team, once we get it down pat we’re going to be producing,” said Stewart. “It’s even better that our penalty kill is killing so many penalties. Special teams can be the difference, and that showed in New York.”

And even before the impressive performance against the Rangers, there were signs that the power-play unit was starting to come around.

“In the Islanders game we started getting a lot more chances even if we weren’t scoring,” said Stastny. “Sometimes you feel it coming. When you’re creating those chances eventually it’s going to come your way.”

San Jose Up Next
On Thursday the Avs will host the San Jose Sharks in a rematch of their 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinal series. While the word “revenge” might be a little strong, Colorado will be looking to prove a thing or two tomorrow.

“They’re a huge rival. They’re the only team I’ve ever played in the playoffs. We definitely have a bitter taste in our mouths from last year,” said Stewart. “I’d say we’re looking for a little bit of redemption and to show them that this is a new year.”

Yip Returns To Practice
Forward Brandon Yip returned to the ice today, first skating by himself for approximately half an hour – going through some skating and shooting drills on his own - before joining his teammates for practice. All told, the Vancouver native was on the ice for two hours today.

“He made it through the whole practice today, which is a positive sign,” said Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco. “We’ll see how he is in the morning. I think he’s more hopeful now after getting through today.”

Yip has missed the Avalanche’s past two games with a groin injury. He skated during the pre-game warm-up Saturday against the New York Islanders, but wasn’t able to play in the game.

The second-year winger has recorded two points (1g/1a) in four games after totaling 19 points (11g/8a) in 32 games during his rookie campaign.

Jones Has Arm Contusion
While Yip was back at practice today, fellow forward David Jones didn’t have full participation in Wednesday’s skate.  Jones injured his arm during Monday’s victory against the Rangers and briefly tried to join practice this morning before taking his leave.

“He’s day-to-day. He took a shot in the Rangers game and he bruised his forearm,” said Sacco. “He tried going today but he couldn’t do it, so we’ll see how he presents in the morning.”
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