Avalanche, Stars both looking for a turnaround
The Colorado Avalanche are searching for answers, trying to find a way out of the tailspin that has them 0-3-1 on their homestand.
They might have a kindred spirit in Saturday's opponent, the Dallas Stars, who visit Colorado on Saturday night in the homestand finale. The Stars lost the first three of their four-game road trip and four of their last five overall, including a 6-2 setback to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
It's a tough stretch for Dallas (9-10-6), which won the Central Division last season, but it's not an unfamiliar feeling. The Stars had stretches last season where they went 1-5-2 and 1-6-0 but bounced back.
"We went through this last year," coach Lindy Ruff told The Dallas Morning News. "I think we're struggling and saying, 'There's got to be an easier way.' But there is no easier way. You have to put the work in."
Similar sentiments are being said in the Avalanche camp. Colorado (9-12-1) played poorly at home all season, going 4-7-1 at Pepsi Center. It failed to capitalize on a decent road record to build momentum, often going stretches of games with a lack of intensity.
It hurt in Thursday's 3-2 loss to Columbus.
"We have fits and starts of really good hockey, but it's not long enough," Matt Duchene told HockeyBuzz.com. "We have to make sure that we're the team that's taking control; it's just more of a killer instinct, more of an attitude to make things happen instead of worrying about making mistakes."
The Avalanche fell behind 2-0 Thursday before a couple of goals in the second period got them even. They took three straight minor penalties in the third, and although they killed them off -- including Columbus having a two-man advantage for 40 seconds -- a turnover soon after they got back to full strength led to the Blue Jackets' winning goal.
One of the Avalanche goals was scored by Samuel Henley in his NHL debut. He, along with Gabriel Bourque, were assigned to San Antonio on Friday after being recalled Thursday.
Colorado scored the first goal in just six of its 23 games and is 5-10-1 when trailing 1-0.
"It's the start of games, the start of periods (when) we're just not ready, as ready as we should be, and I'm not sure why," Duchene told HockeyBuzz.com. "It'd be nice to strike first and dictate the game a little more. I think that's a big key to success in this league, playing with the lead and dictating the game. We have to be more determined to do it early."
The Avalanche scored first in their opener against Dallas on Oct. 15 and went on to win 6-5. They would like to mirror that effort but eliminate the part where they nearly gave away a three-goal lead before holding on.
The Stars, on the other hand, want to avoid a repeat of that game, and they want to start a winning streak. Dallas, like Colorado, has not won more than two in a row this season.
"When I get my top guys on the right side, then we will win games on a consistent basis," Ruff told The Dallas Morning News. "I'm looking at the job I've been doing, and it hasn't been good enough because the guys I take so much pride in aren't on the right side for me, and that bothers me."