Cory Sarich hasn't watched a lot of his former team's games this season, but one thing was clear to him after the Calgary Flames' loss last night to the St. Louis Blues—they're persistent.
The Flames lost 3-2, but they scored twice in the third period to nearly erase a three-goal deficit.
"They are a very hardworking club," Sarich said of his old team. "You look at some of the adversity that they have to face through injuries, they just keep plugging away. Paid a little attention to last night's game and you saw how persistent they were. I think that's a good word to describe them."
Persistent is also a good word to describe Sarich this season.
Since being acquired in a summer trade with Calgary, the defenseman has averaged nearly 18 minutes a game and has been a key addition to the Avalanche's penalty-kill unit, which enters tonight's game fifth in the league (87 percent).
While he only has three points this season (a goal and two assists), the 35-year-old has been a steady d-man for Patrick Roy's club. Sarich is tied for third on the team in plus/minus with a plus-8 rating and has been one of the veteran leaders with playoff and Stanley Cup experience on this year's squad.
"As an older guy, I've got a few words of wisdom to bring to the younger guys," he said. "Maybe talking through different situations during the course of the game, I can add some input to help these guys' minds. It's been good, it's been fun trying to fit in here."
Last year was a crossroads of sorts for Sarich. Often a healthy scratch for Calgary, he only played in 28 of the team's 48 games last season, averaged less than 15 minutes a night and didn't see a lot of shorthanded ice time as well.
It would be easy for Sarich to have some ill will against the Flames in tonight's meeting and want to show what the team gave up on when they traded him.
But that's not how he's approaching this evening's contest.
"Not so much that," Sarich said. "I just want to do my thing and be consistent like it has been this year. Again for us, it's more of a team focus again. We got away from some things last game so we just want to make sure that we rebound as a whole, all of us."
Sarich played six seasons with Calgary (2007-13) and will know plenty of the Flames players when he takes the Pepsi Center ice tonight. He was a teammate with 15 of the current players on Calgary's 23-man roster and said he's looking forward to playing his old mates and seeing how he matches up against them.
"It will be great, a lot of familiar faces over there. It will be a hard-fought game," Sarich said. "I know these guys, they're competitors over there so I would expect nothing less than that. It's always fun to go out there, especially when you have a little background on guys and finally get out there and play against them and see how you match up against them."
AVALANCHE SPOTLIGHT ON: PAUL STASTNY
It took a little bit for Paul Stastny to get going, but the Avalanche center has seemed to have found his game—and the back of the net—over the past few weeks.
Stastny has four goals and six points in his last five games and is tied for second on the team in points with 11 (five goals and six assists). He didn't score a goal in his first seven games of the season.
Center - COL
Goals: 5 | Assists: 6 | Pts: 11
Shots: 25 | +/-: 10
"That's how it is, sometimes you're getting chances and [the puck] isn't going in," Stastny said. "It's a long year, so if you're not scoring over a course of five games, but you're playing well and creating chances, over the next five games you might be scoring three of four. You just have keep staying consistent, keep battling it out and keep getting quality scoring chances."
The Avalanche center also leads the club in faceoff percentage at 55.2 percent and won nine of his 15 draws on Wednesday against Nashville.
In his eighth season with the Avalanche, Stastny had been centering a line with Gabriel Landeskog and Alex Tanguay for much of the season. However, with Tanguay out for a few more weeks with a knee injury, Stastny and Landeskog will have Jamie McGinn on their line for the time being.
Stastny is tied with Tanguay for ninth place on the franchise's all-time scoring list with 409 points (140 goals and 269 assists) in 481 games. He is the third player from the 2005 draft class to reach the 400-point mark, joining Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings.
MORE MORNING NOTES
-Jean-Sebastien Giguere is expected to get the start in net tonight for the Avalanche. Roy has said that Semyon Varlamov will be the starting goalie for Sunday's contest against Washington.
-Roy announced after this morning's skate that defenseman Ryan Wilson will miss at least two weeks with a back injury, suffered last game against Nashville. Nick Holden will replace Wilson in the lineup tonight and be paired with Nate Guenin on defense.
-Matt Duchene suffered a foot injury Wednesday against the Predators, but he will play tonight. He had a goal and two assists versus Nashville.
-After trying Nathan MacKinnon for one game on the wing spot where Alex Tanguay (knee) played, Roy will mix up his lines again for this evening's contest. Roy said he feels MacKinnon is more comfortable at center and believes the rookie will develop better as a player at that position for the time being.
-MacKinnon will center the third line with John Mitchell and Maxime Talbot on the wings. Jamie McGinn, who was playing on the third line, will be the right wing on the line with Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog.
-There will be several familiar faces on the other side of the ice for the Avalanche tonight. The Flames' David Jones (2007-13), TJ Galiardi (2008-12) and Shane O'Brien (2011-13) are former Colorado players, and Calgary head coach Bob Hartley served as Avs' head coach for four-plus seasons (1998-2002). Also, Calgary assistant coach Jacques Cloutier was a Colorado assistant for 13 years.