The Colorado Avalanche should be in a good mood. After all, prior to the NHL All-Star break, they were on a 13-3-1 run that catapulted them to the top of the Central Division. On Monday during morning skate, they looked like a loose team.
During some powerplay work, Logan O’Connor took the puck away and cleared it down the ice, ending things for the second powerplay unit. Devon Toews then (jokingly) drove him into the boards. Artturi Lehkonen decided to come join in, and soon, Bowen Byram was giving O’Connor the old face wash. The entire time, O’Connor had a big grin on his face.
They’ve got every right to feel confident right now, given the way they entered break, but until the game starts, it’s hard to tell how they’ll play after so much time off.
“Our goal yesterday (during practice) was to get them engaged physically,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “We did lots of grinding drills down low, because I feel like a team that can get back committed to the physical side of the game, and get back committed to defending hard, I think leads to success.”
Andrew Cogliano, a veteran of over 1200 games in the NHL, got away with his family during the break to California, but said that even a week long break can be a little too much in the middle of the season.
“I think the break extends near the end of it and you probably want to get back to playing and get back to the groove,” he told me. “We’re having fun. We’re having fun this year. I think there’s a good feeling in our room in terms of the way we play, and if we play the right way, we’re a really tough team to beat, and this is the best time of year, right? You come back, you have 33 games left to get to the playoffs, and that’s why you play, so it’s exciting.”
The Avalanche will have a fresh face in the lineup on Monday night. Well, not exactly a fresh face. Actually, he’s now the oldest guy on the team.
Zach Parise, signed just before the break, will step right into the lineup. He’ll start with Lehkonen and Ryan Johansen, and play on the penalty kill. During skate, he spent a lot of time right next to Nolan Pratt, learning the ins and outs of what this staff wants their penalty killers to do.
There was no hesitation from the coaching staff to throw him right in the lineup, and Parise is happy about that.
“I’ve been skating a lot back home. To get a practice and a morning skate, it’s helpful, but at this point, you have to play hockey. You have to play the game,” Parise told me. “That’s the only way you’re going to get comfortable with it, get acclimated with everything. I’m excited to hop right into it.”
Parise made life miserable for the Avalanche for a long time. He’s hoping he makes life miserable for their opponents now.
“Hopefully it carries over to scoring with them,” he joked.
Other News And Notes
- Alexandar Georgiev will start in net against his old team, the New York Rangers. Justus Annunen will back him up, and I’d anticipate Annunen starts on Tuesday, but you never know.
- Bednar said that the Avalanche sent down Ivan Prosvetov so that he can actually play games, and they would do the same with Annunen. They don’t want young players sitting around, and wouldn’t do that to a young skater.
- “I don’t know who’s going to win the backup job. I really don’t, but we’re going to experiment with both guys.”
- As for the amount of playing time Georgiev has seen, Bednar seems a little sick of talking about it. He said for years, goalies started 60-70 games and no one thought twice about it. He’s not sure why Georgiev can’t do that.
- “The travel’s easier, the meals are better. They take care of themselves better than they ever did before. I don’t buy into the fact that a goalie can’t play more, but the teams that have had success in the recent past, they’re going to split the net 60/40 and away they go, except for a few specific guys. I feel like Georgie is a guy that can play a lot.”
- Is it more about wanting to play Georgiev more or is it lack of trust in the backup?
- “Sometimes it’s a little bit of both,” Bednar said.
- Calum Ritchie is tearing up the OHL right now, and Avalanche forward Andrew Cogliano helped him out over the summer, getting him in touch with the right people to rehab his shoulder injury.
- “He lived in the Toronto area that I’m comfortable with, and people that I know there,” Cogliano told me. “I know good people in Toronto and in that area that can help him, so put him onto some people.” That’s veteran leadership.