The Avalanche kept things loose on Thursday, going through a spirited optional skate at Family Sports Center one day before facing the Calgary Flames in a big battle that could go a long way toward determining both team’s playoff hopes.
Colorado has lost three straight overall, but is 4-1-0 against Calgary this season. That type of success against a Northwest Division rival is a big reason why the Avalanche still holds a playoff position at the moment despite the club’s recent rough patch.
“We’ve worked hard all year long and we’ve won some big games this year,” said Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco
. “We’ve put ourselves in good position. Tomorrow night is going to be an exciting game. It should be a fun game. If you said at the start of the year that we’d be in a game like this, we’d look forward to it.”
The good news is that the Avs will have some reinforcements tomorrow night, as both Brandon Yip and Stephane Yelle will be returning.
Yip has been sidelined since March 1 with a shoulder injury, while Yelle was knocked out of the lineup with a leg injury on March 14. Both players took part in today’s optional practice and will play against the Flames.
Yelle’s veteran presence could prove crucial down the stretch, but Yip will also be relied upon heavily to provide a spark – and hopefully a few goals – for Colorado. The rookie forward had lit the lamp 11 times in 26 games prior to being injured. Sacco said Yip will likely play on the Avalanche’s third line tomorrow.
“I haven’t given it too much thought, but I’m probably going to leave the top two lines alone right now and put him on the right side with O’Reilly,” said Sacco.
Ask any professional athlete and they’ll tell you how hard it is to sit on the sidelines when they are injured, but they’ll also tell you it’s even worse when you watch your team struggle to win games. Yip experienced that for the past month, giving him extra incentive to get back on the ice and provide the team with a boost.
“The shoulder feels great. Mentally I feel great and I’m excited to be back and help out the team any way I can,” said Yip. “It’s always my goal to bring some energy to the team. We need some right now, so hopefully I can fulfill that role.”Quincey Back On Blue Line
In other news, defenseman Kyle Quincey will be back in the lineup tomorrow after serving as a healthy scratch Wednesday against Anaheim.
“I want to get Quince back in there,” said Sacco. “He’s a big part of our team. This year he’s really been one of our young players that’s established himself as one of our (core) guys. He’s hit some bumps along the way here, but he needs to get back in there and needs to play to the level he’s capable of playing.”
Quincey ranks second among Avalanche defensemen in scoring with 27 points (5g/22a) in 73 contests this season.Loose Ends
Craig Anderson will start in goal against Calgary…Injured forward David Jones
was on the ice for today’s optional skate, wearing an orange non-contact jersey…Sacco reiterated that he hopes to have Jones join the team for full a practice sometime in the near future…Matt Hendricks (head) skated by himself prior to practice…Forward David Koci (hand) has been cleared to play and will be available tomorrow.