It’s early, but the next two weeks could make or break the Colorado Avalanche.
With just two wins in their last 10 — sitting dead last in the Central Division, with a 4-9-1 record — the Avs are now facing one of their stiffest tests of the year, a season-long seven-game road swing that goes through Philadelphia, Montreal, Boston, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Washington and Winnipeg from Nov. 10-23.
While it might seem a daunting task, the club is trying to use the trip as a rallying point.
“It’s a matter of being able to turn this thing around,” captain Gabriel Landeskog said, per the team website. “Being on a seven-game road trip, [if] you start winning on the road that’s something that can bond and make a team gel together in a different way than at home.”
Landeskog called this an “important” trip, as did head coach Patrick Roy.
It is important.
And it will not be easy.
Roy, specifically, will have to deal with the loss of injured top-six forward Alex Tanguay, who had six points through the first 14 games while averaging over 17 minutes per night. AHL San Antonio call-up Andreas Martinsen will fill the roster spot, but it’s unlikely he can replicate what Tanguay brought to the table — which could be why Roy is loading up his top line.
Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon skated together at practice on Monday, leaving veteran Jarome Iginla — who previously skated with Tanguay and MacKinnon — to play alongside Carl Soderberg and John Mitchell.
The hope, it seems, is to spark Colorado’s three young guys (Duchene is the senior citizen of the trio, at age 24). MacKinnon’s been very good this year, with 15 points in 14 games, and Landeskog’s been solid as well with 11.
Duchene has struggled to produce at a similar clip, however, with just six points — and a mere two assists — thus far.
That helper total is startlingly low, especially from a guy that, in ’13-14, finished tied with Tyler Seguin for 11th in the NHL in assists, with 47.
“We have to win some hockey games,” Roy said. “In order to do that, we’re going to have to continue to play good defensively, but offensively I think we’re going to have to be more relentless.”