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Johnson credits Roy for ditching ‘chip-it-up-the-wall’ hockey

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At 14-3-0, the Colorado Avalanche continue to be the surprise of the season, finding success with a mix of speed and aggression that was absent in previous seasons.

One of the biggest benefactors from this change — defenseman Erik Johnson — says his new head coach is the guy to thank.

“A lot of it has to do with Patrick [Roy],” Johnson told the Denver Post. “You know, I’m a player that can make plays. You go out there and make a mistake and go back to the bench and he’s like, ‘Don’t worry about it. That’s a great try. Go out and do it again next shift.’

“In the past, we played a lot of D-to-D, chip-it-up-the-wall kind of hockey. Now, there’s a lot of flow to our game, where we come out of the zone with speed. We’re really utilizing our best asset, which is our speed.”

If this change in philosophy/strategy sounds familiar, it should. The Minnesota Wild — who have won eight of 10 — loosened the reigns from their conservative approach this season and have achieved great success.

“We weren’t going to take the next step, become a serious contender, unless we changed the way we played offensively,” head coach Mike Yeo said. “I have bit my lip a couple of times on the bench … but we’re going to live with the risk to get more reward.”

The big difference in Minnesota, though, is that the change in attack didn’t require a coaching change. Yeo acknowledged that if the Wild were going anywhere, it would have to be with a more aggressive mentality.

To achieve a similar new mindset, the Avs had to part ways with Joe Sacco, who repeatedly preached a conservative approach during his four years on the job, driving a wedge between him and his players.

“There were very few people in this (dressing) room who were happy. Our style of play, it wasn’t right for this team. We knew it would fail,” Matt Duchene told the Denver Post in late October. “That was the hard part. We knew (any) success was going to be short-lived. It was hard to really be excited about it.”

Johnson agreed. From the Post:

Under coach Joe Sacco, Johnson said, he would have been told, “What are you doing, not chipping it in?”

“Patrick has just given me that leash, and I just have a belief in my game right now. When the coach has belief in you, it makes a big difference.”

Related: Duchene: Avalanche players knew Sacco’s style of play ‘would fail’

Video: Unlikely combatants Kucherov and Daley drop the gloves

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Emotions were running high at times during the first period between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, in a rematch of the 2016 Eastern Conference Final.

Unlikely combatants Nikita Kucherov and Trevor Daley dropped the gloves for a spirited scrap early in the first period, after the two got tangled up in front of the Pittsburgh goal.

It’s been an ugly (or disastrous) start for the Avalanche in Montreal

Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar, top, and his team react during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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Welcome back, Gabriel Landeskog!

Congratulations on game No. 1,500, Jarome Iginla!

Those are sentiments you probably won’t be hearing from the Colorado Avalanche later on Saturday evening. Yes, they did get their captain back in the lineup from injury. Yes, Iginla was playing in the milestone 1,500th game of his NHL career — certainly an impressive feat in a day when the game is getting younger and getting quicker.

But then, the puck dropped and it all went down the drain for the Avalanche in the opening period. Actually, the opening 10 minutes. Facing the Montreal Canadiens, the Avs found themselves down 5-0 by the 8:41 mark. Of the first period.

Right?

Brian Flynn started the onslaught. Paul Byron got the Habs’ fifth goal.

Shots were at one point 13-2 for Montreal. Perhaps most concerning? This disastrous showing follows Matt Duchene calling out his team for a recent loss and, previous to that, coach Jared Bednar ripping the team for a lack of intensity.

Calvin Pickard got the start in net for Colorado, but he was pulled after giving up three goals on 10 shots. Semyon Varlamov entered the game and quickly allowed two goals on the first three shots he faced.

Hey, remember in November when the Habs lost 10-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets? Well, Montreal was halfway to double digits on Saturday, and the first period wasn’t even at the halfway mark.

As of the completion of this post, Montreal was up 6-0. With 5:30 remaining in the first period.

Video: Borowiecki slams Toffoli from behind into the boards

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Tyler Toffoli reportedly went through the concussion protocol for a portion of Saturday’s game against the Senators, after Ottawa defenseman Mark Borowiecki slammed the L.A. Kings forward from behind into the boards.

The incident occurred less than three minutes into the game.

Borowiecki was given a major penalty for boarding. He received another major, this time for fighting, later in the period after him and Matt Greene dropped the gloves. Now the question becomes: Will Borowiecki face supplemental discipline?

Toffoli missed the remainder of the first period, but returned for the second.

The Kings went on to win by a final score of 4-1.

Blackhawks ‘have to do what’s right’ for injured Toews, who will miss ninth straight game

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 28:  Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 28, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Blackhawks will not have Jonathan Toews in their lineup Sunday, marking the ninth consecutive game their captain has missed because of injury.

There is the possibility of good news, however, for Chicago: Brent Seabrook, considered day-to-day at this point after an awkward fall Tuesday, could return to game action versus the Dallas Stars tomorrow.

The Blackhawks currently have a two-point lead on St. Louis in the Central Division but only four wins in their last 10 games.

Given their recent run of injuries and the results in the win-loss columns, you could understand why the Blackhawks would want Toews back, healthy, as soon as possible, with a three-game road trip coming up next week.

That trip ends Saturday in St. Louis.

But the organization also doesn’t want to just rush the 28-year-old Toews into game action until he’s ready.

From CSN Chicago:

As for Toews, Quenneville had hoped the captain would be skating by this weekend. He said following Saturday’s practice that Toews could skate on Sunday. Whether or not Toews accompanies the Blackhawks on their upcoming trip to New York depends on what happens on Sunday.

“If he skates tomorrow, we’ll have a better sense of that,” Quenneville said. “We have to do what’s right, long-term, and make sure he’s 100 percent and ready to go.”

In 21 games this season, Toews has four goals and 12 points, while playing on both the power play and penalty kill.

Related: Patrick Kane: Others have to ‘step up’ with Toews out of Blackhawks lineup