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Young Avs Try To Stay Even-Keeled

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
One of the challenges for an NHL team is trying not to get too high or too low emotionally throughout the course of the season. That can be tough at times, especially when a team goes through so many ups and downs during its 82-game schedule.

For an example, look no further than Colorado’s past three games. Last Thursday, the Avalanche came off a four-day break and was outplayed by the Vancouver Canucks in a 3-1 loss at Pepsi Center. Two nights later, the team stormed out of the gates and was clicking on all cylinders in a convincing 5-0 victory over the Dallas Stars. Most recently, Colorado dropped a 4-2 decision to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday after holding a 2-1 lead in the third period.

In cases like that, it’s difficult but crucial to not ride the emotional rollercoaster.

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“You definitely want to stay even-keeled,” said forward Brandon Yip. “That might be a key part of our game that we need to work on. Instead, we’re kind of really good one game and kind of bad the next. We have to be consistently good and not too high in the room and not too low at other times. I think if we do that we’ll be a little more consistent.”

Is staying in a consistent frame of mind even tougher with a group of young players?

“Yeah, it’s tough, especially with a young team,” added Yip. “That’s no excuse, but I think we’re learning quick right now that you can’t take a shift off or a period off in this league.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Milan Hejduk, a veteran of over 800 NHL games and someone who is looked upon as a steadying force in the locker room. According to his teammates, Hejduk is a model of consistency both on the ice and off.

When asked how he can pass along the secrets to his success on that front, the veteran winger is quick to point out that the Avalanche’s locker room is not only full of young players, but also young people.

That fact can be easy to forget when each player on the roster is categorized under the umbrella term of “professional athlete.”

“Generally, I would say younger people are more excited about things and if things aren’t going well they’re more down,” said Hejduk. “You still have to play the game, put it behind you, learn from your mistakes and move on. Personalities are all different, but you learn over time by seeing how other players handle situations like that.”

Paul Stastny believes one reason young players often struggle with the mental aspect of the game is because they are so accustomed to always being the best player on one of the best teams while growing up.

“The NHL is different because maybe you’re not as dominant as when you were younger,” said Stastny. “Coming up you’re always the main guy and every level you get to it gets harder and harder and there are more skilled players. There’s not one or two guys that dominate like there are in juniors. That’s why you have to rely on other people and not just yourself.”
When looking back, Stastny’s transition may not have been quite as tough as most because of the lessons he learned from his Hockey Hall of Fame father, Peter.

“I’ve been taught from an early age that nobody is going to be consistent every game. It’s always going to go up and down. Sometimes you’re going to play well but won’t get the bounces. You just have to forget about what happened, remember what you did well and go from there.”

Foote Will Travel
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Avalanche captain Adam Foote is getting closer to a return and may even suit up this weekend.

Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco said today that Foote will travel with the team and is “hopeful” for Saturday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Foote, who suffered a head injury on Oct. 21 against San Jose, just returned to the ice in full force a few days ago after nearly three weeks of inactivity. Since then, the veteran has been working hard to get himself back into game shape. Unlike with many injuries, a concussion usually requires complete inactivity by the player until they return to health. In order to speed up the process, Foote spent an extra hour skating following yesterday’s practice and also was on the ice today before the team hopped on a plane for its Friday night contest in Columbus.

“It’s just a process. It takes a while. You can’t do it in one day, that’s for sure,” Foote said following Wednesday’s practice. “You miss 20 days and it’s not quite starting over, but it’s pretty close.”

Having been around the block once or twice, Foote understands that the NHL season is a marathon. He says if he wasn’t healthy and ready to return, he wouldn’t force the issue by jumping back into the lineup, even though Colorado has suffered numerous injuries to its defensive unit. But just seeing their captain back on the ice has been a motivating factor for the Avs.

“It’s awesome. We definitely miss his leadership in the locker room and out on the ice,” said Yip. “He’s always working hard and doing the right things, so hopefully we can have him back as soon as possible because he’s the backbone of our team.”

Practice Notes
Defenseman Ryan O’Byrne, acquired Thursday morning in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens, should be available for Friday’s game in Columbus…David Jones, who missed Colorado’s game against Calgary and wore an orange non-contact sweater yesterday at practice, will travel with the team on its two-game road trip and is expected to play…Goaltender Craig Anderson and defenseman Ryan Wilson skated before this morning’s practice, but neither player will travel this weekend.

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