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Monday's Practice Report

Avs Need To Utilize Speed Against Canucks; Stewart Still Has Work To Do

Monday, 01.17.2011 / 3:05 PM / Features
By Aaron Lopez  - Special to ColoradoAvalanche.com
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Monday\'s Practice Report
The Avalanche has yet to beat the Vancouver Canucks in four tries this season, but then again, Vancouver has seemingly had the number of almost every team in the league to this point.

The Avalanche will try to reverse that trend when they kick off another five-game homestand against their division rivals Tuesday night at Pepsi Center.

On Monday morning the Canucks had an NHL-best 64 points (29-10-6), due in part to a recent 17-game unbeaten streak during which the team posted a 14-0-3 record. But since then, Vancouver has last two of its last three games, including a 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night.

The Avs trail the Canucks by 12 points in the Northwest Division and haven’t beaten Vancouver yet this season, but Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco says his team has to put that aside and worry about what they can control on Tuesday night.

“The games have been good though, they’ve been tight,” said Sacco. “The bottom line is we’re going to take care of our own business right now. We have to worry about ourselves and not look at where we’re at as far as the standings with them.”

The prevailing wisdom in the locker room is that the Avs will be looking to utilize perhaps their biggest strength – their overall team speed – in order to come out on top tomorrow.

“We’re a skating team, so it’s a matter of coming out and playing our game instead of playing to what they want us to do,” said David Jones. “Our speed is our best asset, so I think getting pucks behind their D and working them in their own end will help us tomorrow night.”

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Still Work To Be Done
Chris Stewart returned from a 21-game absence on Friday when he suited up against the Minnesota Wild, but that doesn’t mean his work is done. Stewart noted following Friday’s game – and reiterated today – that while his legs feel up to NHL speed, he still has to work on getting his hands back.

While sidelined with a fractured hand, Stewart was able to do plenty of skating to keep in shape but had to wait until the latter weeks to do any stickhandling or shooting.

“If anything, I thought my legs were really good last game,” said Stewart. “Little stuff with my hands, trying to make plays in high-pressure situations and quick, it kind of wasn’t there. When that’s not going your way, you have to keep it simple.”

Like most players coming back from an injury, the last pieces of Stewart’s game will come together with time. The power forward says there is no real way to expedite the process, because it’s hard to replicate the speed and pressure of an NHL game.

“It’s just going to get better with every game,” said Stewart. “I’ve had a chance to get three or four practices in before the Vancouver game tomorrow and I can already feel it coming back.”

Practice Notes
It was noted yesterday, but defenseman Kyle Cumiskey could possibly make his return to the lineup on Tuesday…Cumiskey has been sidelined since Oct. 30 with a head injury…Veterans Adam Foote and Milan Hejduk were back at practice today after taking maintenance days on Sunday…As is often the case the day before a game, a good chunk of the Avalanche’s practice today focused on specials teams…During many of those 5-on-4 drills, Foote and Cumiskey skated as defensive partners on the penalty kill.
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