The Avalanche (17-5) has been saying all week that tonight’s game against St. Louis (17-3-3) won’t be about revenge. It won’t be about dishing out payback after suffering through a 7-3 road loss to the Blues that captain Gabriel Landeskog later termed a “stinker.”
Tonight’s game does, however, mean something special to the Avs.
They might not be focused on the “what” from that loss two weeks ago at Scottrade Center, but they are focused on the “how.” Avalanche players and coaches talked often at today’s morning skate about the latter, saying that’s where their recent game against St. Louis was lost.
“[Tonight] is a fresh start for us,” Ryan O’Reilly said. “That last game is not what we wanted. We know we’re going to have to compete against these guys, and it’s going to be a tough match. We have to stick to our system. We have to play our game. This is our barn, and we have to dictate out there.”
The teams finished the first period of their last meeting in a 1-1 tie, but in the second period Colorado got away from the elements that has pushed it to an incredible start this season and was down 5-1 entering the third.
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said earlier this week that he just “threw the second period in the garbage,” knowing there was very little his team could learn from it.
He and his players know St. Louis is a good team. They also know they’re a pretty darn good squad, too.
“Tonight’s a tough test,” PA Parenteau said Wednesday morning. “We know we had a tough game against them in St. Louis. We had a good first period, but then it got away from us. Tonight we’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“[St. Louis is] a really good squad. They’re big, [and] they don’t have many weaknesses, but at the same time, in this league you can win every night—it can go either way.”
Colorado has won three of four since playing St. Louis, including sweeping last week through Chicago, Phoenix and Los Angeles, with the wins against the Coyotes and the Kings coming in the form of overtime victories.
In an increasingly tough Western Conference race—the Avs are off to their best start in franchise history but still sit in sixth place in the conference standings—every game is important, even if five months still remain on the regular-season schedule.
“If you look at the standings, every game is so important,” Parenteau said. “The top eight, the top nine, it’s absolutely jammed up there. … It’s going to be like that all year. You drop one [game] you lose two spots. I don’t see any of those teams going on a crazy losing streak any time soon. We’re going to have to be on our toes and keep doing what we’ve been doing all year and stay confident and believe in what we can do.”
Center Matt Duchene surprised the assembled media in the Avalanche dressing room this morning when he waddled in from the team’s morning skate, untied his skates and made himself available to reporters.
He’s been out of the Avs lineup since suffering an oblique injury Nov. 16 against Florida, and Roy mentioned yesterday that Duchene would likely not play tonight against St. Louis and instead focus on a return this weekend in Colorado’s home-and-home, back-to-back set against Minnesota.
Seems like things have changed. Maybe.
“We’re going to see,” Duchene said. “It’s a game-time decision. There [are] some exterior factors we’re waiting on. At that point, we’ll make the decision. We’re just waiting for that, but I’m going to prepare this afternoon like I’m playing.
“I can perform at 100 percent of capacity, and when I’m skating out there I feel normal again. For a couple days there I felt like I was in someone else’s body, which really sucked, but now I feel good again, and hopefully if I’m in tonight [I can] stay healthy and help the team win.”
- Tonight's matchup features the NHL's top two teams in terms of points percentage: St. Louis (.804) and Colorado (.773).
- The Avs have won three straight games, the last two in overtime.
- At 17-5-0 (34 points), the Avs are off to their best start through 22 games in franchise history. The previous best start was 15-4-3 (33 points) in 2000-01 and 1994-95.
“We’re working hard, and we want to win—that’s the main thing,” Parenteau said. “That’s what I’m seeing right now: the willingness to win a hockey game and to compete hard every night, no matter who we play.”
- Colorado enters tonight's contest having won eight consecutive home games versus the Blues.
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