The Colorado Avalanche has been making a push for the playoffs for most of the season now, and while a chance to compete for Lord Stanley’s chalice doesn’t rest squarely on the shoulders of the Avs, they know they don’t want to leave their fate up to anyone else.
“We’ve just got to control what we can control and that’s winning hockey games,” said captain Gabriel Landeskog, who looks at the standings like anybody else. “It’s definitely tough, but at the same time we knew we didn’t want to leave it up to anybody else. We wanted to have it in our own hands and do what we can. It’s [all] we’re thinking about in here. We’re still going to win our own games, and at the end of the day we’ll see what happens.”
There are 11 contests remaining on the schedule and Colorado will need to keep competing at the top level if it is to continue playing beyond April. That will require hard work and determination from all areas of the ice.
The Avs will get some help in that regard in the near future, as forward Jesse Winchester is ready to return to the lineup.
“[Winchester] will [go on] the trip. He said he had a good practice today. He’ll do the morning skate, and we’ll see after,” head coach Patrick Roy said of his utility forward. “If he’s capable, if he feels good enough to play, we’ll reevaluate and we’ll make a decision if he’s going to play or not.”
Rear guard Erik Johnson, who’s been out since Jan. 27 following knee surgery, doesn’t look to be too far behind Winchester as well.
“He’s probably going to start in the two games we’re going to play at home after the trip,” said Roy.
Winchester has missed the duration of the season after suffering a concussion during a preseason match in Calgary. Post-concussion symptoms, which largely affected Winchester’s when in an area such as Pepsi Center, delayed his recovery.
“I seemed to have turned a corner about a week and a half ago. Before that, it was pretty miserable, but I’ve noticed big changes just in the way I can hang out and be myself. I’m hoping that translates over into the game arenas and those kinds of things. I’m hoping to become an athlete again,” he said. “It’s been a rough go, personally. I’m just happy to be feeling like myself, and hopefully I can work my way back into some form of [contribution]. It’s a big test coming up, and I’m looking forward to it. Whatever I can do, I’m ready to do it.”
The 31-year-old Winchester has been relegated to watching his teammates battle it out from the stands, wanting to help but being unable to perform.
“It’s an exciting time, and it sucks being away, especially with the excitement around the team right now and how well the boys have been playing. It’s tough to watch, but I’m fortunate to be feeling like myself and hopefully I’ll get in a game at some point here,” he said. “I’m enjoying today and hopefully I’ll experience a great flight and road trip with the guys, and I’ll come to the rink tomorrow and just keep working until I’m all the way back.
“I’ve missed a lot of games. I know where I’m at physically and what the grind is all about, and I’ll be fresh and ready to go when I’m ready.”
Having a rested body at the end of a grueling campaign, when every point matters, is a big deal, and Winchester’s return will certainly help the Avalanche down the final stretch and beyond.
“I’m a pretty positive spirit,” the forward said. “I don’t know what the schedule is for me going forward, but I have a pretty good attitude and I [need to] bring that every day, work hard and hopefully help out in any way I can.”
This kind of addition, bolstered depth coming at the right time, is exactly the kind of thing that Landeskog likes to see.
“We feel like we’re a group that has a lot of character, and this is the time of year it shows,” he said.”
Center Joey Hishon is a couple of draws away from returning to the Avalanche lineup as well. Out with an elbow injury since March 10, Hishon and the Colorado coaching staff are planning on testing the strength of his joint during the club’s morning skate in Calgary on Monday.
|Joey Hishon |
“We’ll do faceoffs tomorrow morning at pregame skate and we’ll see,” the 23-year-old forward said after today’s practice. “I felt great. I felt awesome. The trainers here are unbelievable. You get all the treatment you could possibly need. I’m feeling awesome, and hopefully I can get back in there.”
Hishon said that the decision to miss playing time due to his ailment was based solely on not wanting to put the team in a tough scenario on the ice.
“We decided we shouldn’t get into a situation where we ice the puck late in a shift and [Ducks captain Ryan] Getzlaf or [Corey] Perry or someone comes out and I’ve got to try and take a big faceoff in a big part of a game like that,” he said. “So I wanted to get stronger that way, and I think I feel a lot better today.”
As he prepares to support the Avs down the stretch, Hishon said that working on himself away from the rink has provided him with the confidence and success to make the lineup and stick around.
“I think a big thing for me, even outside of hockey, is just working on my strength. I got into yoga this year with my girlfriend. She’s really into that, and she’s also really into nutrition,” said Hishon. “So I kind of try to follow her lead and bear down in those areas, and I think it’s helped my performance on the ice immensely. I credit a lot of that to her.”
When Hishon tests his elbow Monday, he does so knowing that he must be ready to perform at his best in order to help the Avs in this final push for the postseason.
“These are huge, huge games for us. I think we had a good road trip last week there, and moving forward we’ve got to build on that to stay in the playoff push,” Hishon said. “These next few games are huge, and we’ll be ready to go.”