The Avalanche practiced Monday for the first time since returning to Denver from its perfect two-game road trip to Phoenix and Los Angeles last Thursday and Saturday.
The win against the Coyotes was drama-filled, with Colorado coming back from a 3-2 deficit late in the third period to win 4-3 in overtime. Saturday’s 1-0 victory against the Kings also came in extra time and pushed the Avs to 4-0 this season against last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs final four with the previous three wins coming against Boston (1-0), Pittsburgh (1-0) and Chicago (5-1).
The first item up for discussion, though, in coach Patrick Roy’s Monday news conference was the absence of three players who figure to be key cogs for the Avalanche the rest of the way.
Matt Duchene (oblique), Alex Tanguay (knee) and Ryan Wilson (back) continue to nurse injuries, and none of the three figures to play in the Avs’ Wednesday night home game against St. Louis (7 p.m. MT; Altitude 2).
Roy last week gave a slight glimmer of hope that Duchene might have actually played in last week’s trip, but he ultimately did not and likely will be out Wednesday, too, after wearing a no-contact jersey Monday at Family Sports.
“Today was his first day where he was pain free, and we’ll see tomorrow,” Roy said. “If things progress, hopefully he could play against Minnesota. I’d be very surprised that he played against the Blues. I certainly want to see him having contact before going and playing a game.”
The prognosis for Tanguay and Wilson continues to be up in the air, but Roy said he expects both to remain sidelined until at least the second week of December. Tanguay has been out since Colorado’s Nov. 2 game against Montreal, and Wilson hasn’t skated since he left the Avs’ game against Nashville on Nov. 6.
“We think it’s about another two weeks before they start playing a game,” Roy said. “The week of [December 9]. I think that’s pretty much what might happen, depending on how it goes. But things are going well for both of them right now.”
Colorado has three Central Division games on slate this week, with an away-and-home, back-to-back set against Minnesota coming Friday (4 p.m. MT; Altitude) and Saturday (7 p.m. MT; Altitude).
Roy said that Semyon Varlamov will start Wednesday against the Blues and Saturday at home against the Wild. Varlamov improved Saturday night to 12-5 this season with a 2.09 goals-against average.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (5-0, 1.73 GAA) is slated to get the call Friday night in Minneapolis.
Colorado goaltending coach Francois Allaire, who works with the team on a part-time basis, has been in town for the past week or so, working directly with Varlamov and Giguere, but he’s slated to fly out again this week. Varlamov has been stellar this season, but he’s been exceptionally strong in the past week, posting a 3-0 record and a 1.28 GAA with a 96 percent save percentage.
“When [Allaire’s] in he’s working hard with them, and they work hard, and when he’s leaving, I think it’s giving them a chance to work on things,” Roy said. “I thought it was good to have him here in that period of time when ‘Varly’ could work on things that he wanted, and he was outstanding in the last three games.”
The Avs, at 17-5-0, are off to their best start in franchise history with 34 points scored through 22 games, and they’ve showcased a variety of routes to victory through the season’s first eight weeks.
They displayed an new level or resiliency, though, in winning at Phoenix.
Colorado led the Coyotes 2-0 in the second period before finding itself down 3-2 with a little less than six minutes left in the third period. Cody McLeod rose to the challenge of a road deficit and tied it 3-3, and Ryan O’Reilly ended it in overtime with a wrister from the right face-off circle.
“Those are important games, when you get up early, and then they come out all cylinders firing in the third period and take the lead,” forward John Mitchell said. “That’s obviously big for our team to be able to come back. You might not come back and win it in regulation, but you give yourself a good opportunity in overtime or shootout, but we were able to finish it in overtime.”
Colorado on Saturday showed it can win a defensive, physical road battle, claiming a 1-0 win in a game that featured 74 hits.
Jamie McGinn pushed aside a “snake-bitten” past few weeks and scored the game’s only goal, scoring for the 50th time in his career and finally lighting the lamp after a month of close calls.
“We’ve beat the last two Cup winners, with Chicago and L.A., and obviously Phoenix has a really good team this year,” rookie Nathan MacKinnon said. “So, good confidence for us going into St. Louis, and obviously with Minnesota twice coming up, it’s going to be some big division games.”
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