Avalanche host Stars, look to end skid (Oct 24, 2017)
DENVER — The Colorado Avalanche were in a groove after beating the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 13, but after a three-game losing streak, frustration is creeping in.
Frustration at a bad call in a regulation loss to St. Louis, frustration with how some players performed in the loss to the Blues and more frustration with their mounting injuries.
Colorado (4-4-0) limps into its Tuesday matchup against the Dallas Stars, who started the Avalanche’s losing streak with a 3-1 win on Oct. 14.
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The Stars (5-3-0) are winning despite the fact that some players are off to a slow start, coach Ken Hitchcock said after a 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
“The only lesson from me right now, to be honest with you, is that we are winning games and we don’t have everybody going,” Hitchcock told The Dallas Morning News. “We’ve got significant people going, but we don’t have enough people going. If we expect to win on the road, we are going to need way more participants in our game.
“We are going to be able to chat with those guys in the next 48 hours and hopefully get more participants in the way we need to play.”
Colorado is looking to regroup and for better effort from some of its players. Forward Nail Yakupov, who had a strong preseason and start to the season, was benched in the third period against St. Louis, and coach Jared Bednar limited the minutes of defenseman Nikita Zadorov.
Bednar hopes they got the message.
“I have high expectations for Yak based on what he did in training camp, based on what he’s done the first handful of games in the season,” Bednar told HockeyBuzz.com. “There’s been a little drop-off in his play over the last two or three (games), much like the rest of our team. I don’t want to treat him unfairly. I’ve talked to him about it. I’m looking forward for him to respond for sure.”
Zadorov had 15:31 of ice time against the Blues while his defensive partner, Erik Johnson, logged more than 26 minutes.
“I think he can be better,” Bednar said of Zadorov. “We’re putting pressure on him to be better. Last season he came out with a slow start and he kept building and building, and I thought he was playing a real solid, top-four-defenseman game for a stretch, then he got hurt.”
Injuries have been a major concern for the Avalanche since the loss to St. Louis on Thursday. Rookie center Tyler Jost is out two to three weeks with a lower-body injury, and forward J.T. Compher will miss significant time with a broken thumb sustained against the Blues.
Colorado defenseman Patrik Nemeth and forward Colin Wilson are banged up and will not play.
The Avalanche recalled forwards Gabriel Bourque and A.J. Greer from San Antonio of the AHL on Sunday, and both are expected to be in the lineup against Dallas. Defenseman Andrei Mironov was also expected to be recalled.
Greer is expected to be on the third line while Bourque will play on the left wing on the second line centered by Matt Duchene.
“For me, it’s to be that power forward and create space (for my linemates) and let them do the fancy work and I do the dirty work,” Greer told HockeyBuzz.com. “It’s special to put on this Avs jersey, it’s a dream come true every time you put that on.”
The Avalanche have had a long layoff since the game against the Blues on Thursday, a contest in which they feel they should have earned at least a point. They had a tying goal with 2:34 remaining in regulation overturned on an offside challenge by St. Louis, and the next day the NHL acknowledged that the goal should have been allowed.
Colorado is putting that behind and concentrating on playing better.
“We had a lot of guys who came and played really, really hard (against St. Louis),” Bednar said. “They competed to win, and that was the large group of our team. But this is an unforgiving league. We learned that last year. You need everyone pulling the rope in the same direction every night or you’re not going to win.”