Happy New Year, everyone. Enjoy, but be smart and safe.
It sounds like Avalanche coach Patrick Roy is about to bite the bullet and change offensive strategy tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Pepsi Center.
Here are the game notes.
Looking to get what has been a disappointing offense on track, Roy said this morning it’s time to try a new tack since the Avalanche have had so much trouble with their speed game.
If the Avalanche forwards can’t get it going again tonight, something they haven’t been able to do as much this season as last, maybe playing a dump-and-chase game is in order.
“I’m not crazy about putting the puck behind ‘Ds’ and getting a forecheck going,” he said. “Some nights the ‘D’ does a good job closing the gap on us and the forwards are backchecking really well and there’s no room. So we have no choice putting pucks behind their ‘D’ and get the forecheck and try to generate offense maybe a different way.”
Better than trying to skate through bodies in the neutral zone and coughing up the puck.
The Avalanche (13-15-8) have lost two games in a row after putting that modest 4-0-2 run together and are coming off that dreadful 3-0 loss in St. Louis when they managed 16 shots on goal, matching the season low in the opener in Minnesota.
The Avalanche’s inability to generate much offense on a consistent basis has been a major problem. They’ve been shut out six times and, not counting goals awarded in shootouts, have scored more than three goals in seven of 36 games.
“The talent level on this team is certainly not the problem,” said Daniel Briere, who has gone 11 games without a goal. “When things are not going your way, sometimes you start squeezing the stick. You’re thinking a little too much. I think maybe there’s some of that going on for us this year.
“But looking around the room there’s certainly a lot of talent, enough to go around, that we should be scoring more goals. It’s part of the reason where we are in the standings. Lately we’ve been playing a lot better defensively. We have to find a way to score more goals.”
The Avalanche spent much of Tuesday watching videos and discussing ways with Roy to do just that. Roy has been saying all season the Avalanche have to shoot more and spend more time moving to the front of the net rather than looking for the perfect pass that usually doesn’t materialize.
“We know how to score goals, there’s a lot of goal scorers in here,” said captain Gabriel Landeskog, who has gone 12 games without a goal. “It’s just a matter of confidence when you get the puck and sometimes we don’t have the confidence and you’re looking for a pass. Any time you’re hot, you’re looking at the net and for opportunities to shoot the puck.
“That’s the difference between being hot and cold. We just need to find poise with the puck. A lot of times in front of the net the puck bounces out to you and you’re getting off a shot too quick or holding onto it to long. Small details make a big difference.”
Flyers coach Craig Berube said he’s surprised by the Avalanche’s offensive woes and is hopeful they don’t break out tonight.
“With their speed and their players, for sure,” he said. “Sometimes that happens. You don’t know why, you can’t put a finger on it. They have great players over there, a lot of speed.”
***** Borna Rendulic was in Milwaukee getting ready to play for Lake Erie in the AHL on Tuesday when he got word that he had been recalled for the second time and would play tonight. He’ll replace Nick Holden on the fourth line with Cody McLeod and Marc-Andre Cliche.
“We were uncomfortable putting a defenseman as a forward,” Roy said of Holden, who will replace Zach Redmond on defense against the Flyers. “The thing that we like about Borna is his speed. He played well enough defensively when he was here. We hope that he’s going to bring a bit of offense to that line.”
Rendulic, 22, had four goals and four assists in 26 games with the Monsters. He had no points in three previous games with the Avalanche.
“It was a nice surprise. I was getting ready for the morning skate,” said Rendulic, who arrived in Denver last night. “Some games I played good (with Lake Erie) and some games I played bad. I’m struggling with consistency. I just have to work harder.”
It’s been an adjustment for Rendulic, who is 6-feet-2 and 200 pounds. This is his first season in North America, so he needs to get acclimated to a different culture and smaller rinks. Born in Zagreb, Croatia, he spent the past three seasons in Finland. He signed with the Avalanche as a free agent in May after collecting 11 goals and 21 assists in 57 games for HPK.
“It’s a big adjustment,” he said. “I come from a small town to the big city, and the ice is a lot different, a lot smaller, a lot of tackling and a lot of battles. It’s a little bit different in Europe. The ice rinks are bigger and the games are more skillful. Teams are playing more with the puck than here. Here you don’t have space so you have to chip it in and go get it. But it’s a long season still.”
The Flyers (14-16-6) have lost two in a row with three games left on an eight-game road trip and sit fifth in the Metropolitan Division. They got off to a poor start but earned points in nine of 10 games (6-1-3) before losing their past two games to Nashville and Arizona.
Right wing Jakub Voracek, who leads the NHL in scoring with 46 points, has gone two games without a point for the first time this season. He and center Claude Giroux were held without a point in the same game Monday — a 4-2 loss to the Coyotes — for just the second time this season when the Flyers weren’t shut out.
So Berube will replace Michael Raffl on the top line with Matt Read. Raffl will skate with R.J. Umberger and Sean Couturier.
“(Voracek) has a history with Read going up there every once in a while with that line having a good game,” Berube said. “Chemistry, good speed. Jake and (Giroux) were getting checked hard the past couple games. I thought I’d add a little more speed on the line, a little more puck ability and things like that. (Read) has good speed and can handle the puck and make plays.” Steve Mason will be in goal for the Flyers.
Here’s the Avalanche lineup: FORWARDS
Max Talbot – Matt Duchene – Nathan MacKinnon
Gabriel Landeskog – Ryan O’Reilly – Daniel Briere
Alex Tanguay – John Mitchell – Jarome Iginla
Cody McLeod – Marc-Andre Cliche – Borna Rendulic DEFENSE
Jan Hejda – Erik Johnson
Nate Guenin – Tyson Barrie
Brad Stuart – Nick Holden GOALIES
Reto Berra Follow @RickS7