The Colorado Avalanche are hosting the final exhibition home game tonight against the Los Angeles Kings. So far Colorado has won one and lost one in the preseason. Both were one-goal games.
Preseason games are a chance for coaches to evaluate prospects and solidify the opening night roster. So, naturally, any prospects in the lineup need to strut their stuff.
However, is it also important for the veterans to put their best foot — or skate — forward? Actually, it is.
"“€œYou should get up for every game this time of year. It doesn’t€™t matter if it’€™s preseason. Maybe you don’€™t win. Maybe you donâ€t play great, but you have to have the effort. The effort has to be there. You have to push and make sure that youâ€™re ready for the start of the season. Shake the cobwebs out and work hard.”"
Players in the Spotlight
Last year both Borna Rendulic and Dennis Everberg seemed to be having a strong preseason. In fact, I thought Rendulic might edge Everberg out for a roster spot. Then Everberg got a goal, and I felt that sealed his roster spot on opening night.
This year, Rendulic has his chance again. He’s repping during the preseason, and head coach Patrick Roy has noticed:
"“When he’s using his speed, he becomes a threat out there.”"
He needs to keep bringing it, though.
For some reason going into training camp I didn’t think forward Mikko Rantanen could crack the roster. However, if scoring a goal is what tips the scales, then Rantanen already has that covered. If he keeps his foot on the pedal — and is actually capable of competing at the level he’s shown thus far — he may well be the latest 18-year-old to skate for the Avalanche.
Defenseman Chris Bigras has a tough nut in front of him with eight defensemen already on the Colorado Avalanche payroll, most of them with one-way contracts. And with Brandon Gormley impressing at camp and in the preseason… Bigras probably will get sent back down to San Antonio, but his play now could tap him as the first call up.
A lot of people like to think at least four roster guys should be fighting for their jobs. Interestingly among the defensemen, it’s usually Nate Guenin, not Nick Holden. Guenin anchored roving defenseman Tyson Barrie very well last season, and he’s ever a favorite of coach Roy’s anyway.
If there’s any defenseman that might find himself on waivers, it could be Nick Holden. He struggled a lot last season. And though he improved, coach Roy could well decide one of the prospects might make a bigger impact sooner.
As Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog noted, “every team in every sport is going to say it’s important to get a strong start to the season.” He qualified that by adding the team’s focus was getting ready for opening night vs. the Minnesota Wild on October, 8.
However, we all saw the Avalanche’s dismal preseason — only one win in seven games — carry over into a dismal start to the regular season. No matter which players on the roster tonight make it to opening night, the team needs to gain momentum going into the regular season.
Keys to the Game
Special Teams Gotta be Special
The Colorado Avalanche’s penalty killing unit got way too much practice in the game against the Calgary Flames — five penalties good for 10 minutes of penalty killing. Luckily the PK proved solid.
However, the power play also got some chances — four Calgary penalties. The power play failed to convert — making it look very un-special. And too similar to last season’s pedestrian power play for Avalanche fans to feel comfortable. The Avs have got to get that figured out now, before it really matters.
Rush Hour Traffic
Head coach Patrick Roy stated — and defenseman Francois Beauchemin reiterated — that a major weakness in the game against the Calgary Flames was a lack of traffic in front of the net.
Indeed, the Colorado Avalanche isn’t having problems shooting this season so far, managing 35 shots on goal. Unfortunately, Calgary goalie prospect Joni Ortio could see all of them well enough to stop every single one.
Colorado has got to make the front of the Kings’ net look like I-25 on a Friday afternoon — congested with traffic. Well, there needs to be enough space for the puck to sneak into the net. Sorting the traffic problem might even help out with the power play problem.
The Colorado Avalanche game against the Los Angeles Kings takes place at Pepsi Center at 6:00 PM. The game will not be televised, but you can access the radio broadcast on the Colorado Avalanche website.
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