DENVER — The Colorado Avalanche limped out of Denver a week ago following a 1-4-0 homestand, in danger of their season mirroring last year’s 48-point campaign.
Next up was a road trip that included games against Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Washington. After falling to the Lightning, the Avalanche found success against the Florida Panthers and rode that win to another over the two-time defending champion Penguins.
The Panthers weren’t pleased with their performance in a 7-3 loss to Colorado on Saturday, and they get quickly get a chance at revenge when the teams meet on Thursday night at Pepsi Center.
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Each team will be playing for the third time in four nights while looking to build off recent successes.
For the Avalanche (14-14-2), that means getting back to winning at home after a disappointing five-game homestand. They finished 2-2-0 on their tough Eastern Conference trip.
“We played two good games in Florida and Pittsburgh, but at this point we’re not looking to play .500 hockey,” captain Gabriel Landeskog said after Colorado’s 5-2 loss to the Capitals on Tuesday. “We’re looking to do better than that.”
To do better, they will have to improve at home, where they were 8-2-1 to start the season before dropping their last three at Pepsi Center. Colorado has a young, fast team and tries to wear down opponents with its quickness and Denver’s thin air. However, bad turnovers and mistakes are hurting the second-youngest team in the NHL.
The Avalanche played Tuesday without one of their young stars, rookie forward Alexander Kerfoot, who was out after taking a shot off the leg from teammate Erik Johnson against Pittsburgh on Monday. Kerfoot is listed day-to-day, and with the team not practicing Wednesday following a back-to-back, his status was for Thursday was uncertain.
Colorado likely will face Florida goaltender James Reimer again. Reimer is doing the heavy lifting with Roberto Luongo expected to miss a chunk of time due to a lower-body injury. Reimer was victimized Saturday by Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon, who scored a highlight-reel goal.
Despite the four-goal difference, the Panthers actually had more chances than the Avalanche but didn’t convert often enough against Semyon Varlamov.
“We didn’t bury our chances. They did,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said after the loss to Colorado.
That game capped a three-game homestand for Florida, which is now is in the midst of a five-game road trip. The Panthers (12-14-5) started well on the trip, beating Detroit in overtime but falling to Chicago in overtime. They have earned three of a possible four points with games against Colorado, Vegas and Arizona to come.
Boughner has been pleased with the effort on the trip, especially in the game against Chicago, which earned its third win in a row. The Panthers took the lead in the third period, only to have the Blackhawks tie it late and win it on a goal by Patrick Kane in overtime.
“I think it was a gutsy effort on our part,” Boughner said after the loss. “I thought that we got contributions from the lineup. We all played hard. We played 60 minutes. You know back-to-back is never easy, especially against a team like this.”
A similar effort against Colorado might result in a win, but the Avalanche are motivated to make a playoff push a year after finishing last in the NHL.
“We still have pretty high standards for our team and feel that we can win every night,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said.