Avs Pleased, Not Content Entering Second Half

Colorado wants to build on momentum but not relish it.

Monday, 01.06.2014 / 5:22 PM
Scott Ward

The Avalanche will face the Flames tonight (7 p.m. MT; Altitude) on the heels a 4-3 victory against San Jose on Saturday that was about as emotional of a hockey game as you’ll see

Colorado broke out to a 4-0 lead against the Sharks, including scoring three goals in a 1:06 span in the second period. The Sharks then pulled within 4-2 later in the period with two goals scored 1:36 apart.

The second period also featured fights and plenty of physical play, and the teams combined to take nine second-period penalties.

It was a hard-fought win, to be sure.

"That's fun hockey right there," Jamie McGinn said Saturday. "It was intense. The crowd was into it; seemed like they were enjoying themselves, and we feed off of it. That's hockey. We have to play in those types of games sometimes, and I thought the boys rose to the challenge."

The Avalanche’s challenge tonight will be to continue the momentum of that win and not just let that victory be a blip on the radar. With the season’s second half beginning tonight, Colorado (26-11-4) has a chance here to use Saturday’s win as a jumping-off point to a second 41-game run to mirror its first 41.

Colorado’s 26 wins equal its most ever at the midpoint of the season, while its 56 points trails only the 2000-01 team for its best record after 41 games.

“We’ve just got to keep it simple,” forward Ryan O’Reilly said. “If you look at the last game, it got pretty scary at the end there—we gave up too much at the end—so we know we want to respond from that. Even though we won the game—[goaltender Semyon Varlamov] played great—we have to respond, we have to come out here and send a message right away.”

The Avs are 2-0 this season against Calgary (14-21-6), but they know a third straight win against the Flames won’t come easy.

The Flames are wounded a bit after finishing 1-4 in their recent five-game homestand, but they’ve played the Avs tough two times this season and are led by former Avalanche coach Bob Hartley, who won four division titles in Denver, appeared in the conference finals four times and won the Stanley Cup in 2001.

“If we think we’re going to have an easy game, we’re wrong,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. “This is a team that’s going to work hard. This is a team that is almost in every game. I know a lot of times they finish on the wrong side of the win, but at the same time they’re going to work hard, and they’re going to give us a good battle. We’re going to have to be ready for these guys because I expect them to play a good game tonight.”

With yesterday being a planned day off for the Avalanche, tonight’s season-series finale against the Flames kicks off the second week of Colorado’s season-long, seven-game homestand, it’s longest continuous stay at home since Nov-Dec. 2011.

The Avs have earned points in the first four games of this home stretch, but that could all be for naught if it doesn’t match the effort in the next three games (Calgary, tonight; Ottawa, Wednesday; New York Islanders, Friday).

“Right now we’re happy,” Roy said. “It was a playoff game, to me, against Winnipeg (Dec. 29). Zero-zero going into the third, and almost halfway in the third it was still 0-0, but we picked up a point. It was a big one for us, and it was important for us to come back with a big effort against Columbus (Dec. 31), and I thought we played a good game. [Our] power play and penalty killing were the difference maker in that game, and I thought it brought a lot of confidence to the team, and it showed against [Philadelphia (Jan. 2)] and then San Jose.

“San Jose was the test for us, but at the same time, tonight, it’s another good one for us.”

WILSON SENT TO LAKE ERIE

Defenseman Ryan Wilson has been sent to AHL-affiliate Lake Erie for a 14-day stint so he can continue to work on his conditioning.

Wilson missed all but 12 games last season because of an ankle injury and began this season on Injured Reserve with a knee injury. He missed the Avalanche’s first four regular-season games before suffering a back injury Nov. 6 vs. Nashville that shelved him for 16 games and landed him again on IR.

He was activated Dec. 14 and returned to the Avalanche lineup Dec. 27 at Chicago. He skated against the Blackhawks and again last week against Winnipeg and Columbus before sitting the past two games.

“We sat down with him, and I suggested it might be good for him to play five games [with Lake Erie],” Roy said. “He’s going to practice with them the entire week, starting tomorrow, and then after he’s going to play [three games in three days], and then he’s going to play two more, and then he’s going to come back on Jan. 19.”

Nate Guenin, who took a puck to the ankle Saturday against San Jose, will not skate tonight, and Roy said Tyson Barrie will be in the Avs lineup after being a healthy scratch the past two games.

“We’re going to stay as we are,” Roy said. “We’re not going to call up anybody. I think Guenin is a day-to-day anyway, knowing Nate.”

PREGAME NOTEBOOK

- The Avalanche’s current three-game home win streak matches its season high, done twice before.

- Colorado has earned points in each of its past seven home games (5-0-2)—the club’s longest streak without a regulation loss at home since Nov. 30 to Dec. 23, 2011 (8-0-0).

- The Avalanche’s 26 wins through the season’s halfway point (41 games) equals its most at the midpoint of any season. The Avs’ 56 points through 41 games trails only Colorado’s 2000-01 team (59).

- Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who spent parts of the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons with Calgary, is expected to start in net tonight for the Avalanche. He’s 7-3-0 this season with a 2.51 goals-against average and a 91.8 save percentage. Kari Remo (6-7-3; 2.74 GAA, 90.6 save percentage) is slated to get the call for the Flames.

- Giguere is tied with Tom Barrasso and Sean Burke for 37th place on the NHL’s all-time shutout list (38), and he’s tied with Ken Dryden for 44th on the league’s all-time wins list (258). Giguere is tied with Jocelyn Thibault for 44th in all-time NHL games played and will move into 43rd with tonight’s start.

- Avalanche defenseman Andre Benoit turns 30 today. He was born Jan. 6, 1984. He joined the Avs as a free agent in July and ranks second on the team in defensemen scoring (14 points) and third overall in average ice time at 20:39 per game.

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