Nothing helps cure a disappointing finish than playing a team that hasn't beaten you in three tries this season. Colorado will put that to the test when it hosts the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night in the fourth meeting between the teams.
Both teams will be playing for the third time in four nights after playing each other on Wednesday, and there could be some hangover from that game. Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard checked Chicago forward Alex DeBrincat into the boards with a borderline hit that didn't draw a penalty but did lead to a $1,957 fine by the NHL.
The Avalanche have swept the first three games in convincing fashion, including a 4-1 win in Chicago on Wednesday night. They've won two at the United Center and now try to win again at Pepsi Center where they beat the Blackhawks 7-3 on Nov. 30.
In the first three games between the Northwest Division rivals Colorado has outscored Chicago 16-6 and the Blackhawks' defensive corps will again have its hands full with the high-scoring Avalanche on Saturday night. Chicago got veteran defenseman Duncan Keith back on Wednesday night after he missed nine games with a groin injury, and he lamented the turnovers and the low energy level the team had against Colorado.
"We've got to get a little more emotion," he told reporters after the loss. "It's not going to just turn around, it's not going to just happen. We need to make it happen. We need to get a little pissed off. We can go over the X's and O's and everything and all the stuff.
"But I think everybody, myself included, has to play with a little more energy, a little more grit, being a little mean out there."
Chicago rebounded to beat Winnipeg 4-1 on Thursday night without veteran defenseman Brent Seabrook, whose name has been circulated in trade rumors. Those rumors heated up when he was a healthy scratch against Colorado and then he sat out Thursday's game due to injury.
The Avalanche have their own issues with defensemen -- good and bad. Erik Johnson returned from missing 11 games to log nearly 21 minutes against Carolina and rookie phenom Cale Makar may return from an upper-body injury that has cost him the last six games.
The bad was the benching of Nikita Zadorov in the third period on Thursday. Coach Jared Bednar didn't elaborate on why Zadorov didn't play the final 20 minutes other than to say it was a "coach's decision."
Despite the loss Colorado has earned points in 10 of its last 12 games and sits comfortably in second place in the Central Division nearly halfway through the season. But Thursday was the second time the Avalanche have lost a late lead to an Eastern Conference opponent, a trend they want to stop in a hurry.
"We just need to find ways to close these kind of games out," forward Matt Nieto said. "Those are points that we're missing out on now that hopefully don't bite us in the back at the end of the year. I mean that's just a tough one."
--Field Level Media