Avalanche look­ing to turn heat up on home ice

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Terry Frei

De­spite the furor dur­ing and af­ter the Avalanche’s em­bar­rass­ing 10-1 blowout loss at Mon­treal on Satur­day, the fact is that Colorado even­tu­ally went 2-2 on the just-con­cluded trip and is 7-7-0 on the road this sea­son.

It would be wrong to make too much of 14 points in 14 road games, since go­ing into Tues­day’s games, 16 of the 30 NHL teams had at least a point per road game and win­ning on the road isn’t as dif­fi­cult as it is in the NBA, for ex­am­ple. Also, that’s not “.500,” in the sense that three-point (over­time and shootout) games lead to a true NHL av­er­age of about 1.1 points per team per game.

But what it does mean is that the Avalanche has been de­cent on the road — while on many nights leav­ing the Pepsi Cen­ter in need of fu­mi­ga­tion.

Colorado takes a 4-8-1 home record, in­clud­ing 0-4-1 in its most re­cent home­s­tand, into Wed­nes­day night’s home game against the red-hot Philadel­phia Fly­ers. The Fly­ers have won nine in a row, and Colorado will be with­out goalie Se­myon Var­lamov, who came out of his 51-save per­for­mance

against Toronto on Sun­day with a groin muscle is­sue. Calvin Pickard will get the start in net, and Spencer Martin was re­called from San An­to­nio to back him up.

Re­gard­less of who has been in goal, this has be­come the dreaded home-ice dis­ad­van­tage.

“I don’t know why our road record’s so much bet­ter,” Matt Duch­ene said Tues­day. “That’s got to change a lit­tle bit, ob­vi­ously. We have to be a lot bet­ter. But we’ve had some bad games on the road too, games where we haven’t shown up. When we lose, we’re do­ing the same things, and it’s not a home ver­sus road thing. When we win, we’re do­ing the same things. It’s not a home ver­sus road thing there, ei­ther. It’s about play­ing good hockey, no mat­ter what build­ing we’re in.

“At home, yeah, it should be a place where other teams don’t want to play. There is such a thing as home-ice ad­van­tage. We haven’t re­ally found it yet this year.”

Duch­ene’s stun­ning home-road scor­ing dis­par­ity is the kicker to all of this. He again is the Avs’ lead­ing goal scorer, with 10 in the 23 games he has played in, sand­wiched around miss­ing four games with con­cus­sion symp­toms. And a grand to­tal of zero of those goals have come at home. There are no plans to re­quire him to stay in a down­town ho­tel the night be­fore home games. Not yet, any­way.

“I’m not play­ing any dif­fer­ent, I don’t think,” Duch­ene said. “I feel I’m play­ing the same at home ver­sus road, so you just have to stick with it. I’ve had some close calls at home. It’s go­ing to go even­tu­ally. It’s just a mat­ter of time.”

Avalanche cap­tain Gabe Lan­deskog missed the 0-4-1 home­s­tand with a lower body in­jury. He re­turned to the lineup for the loss in Mon­treal and the 3-1 win at Toronto the next night.

“We have to stop the bleed­ing at home,” Lan­deskog said. “We have to find ways to scrape up some points at home. It hasn’t been good enough so far, and it’s not go­ing to be good enough if we keep this go­ing. I think we showed a lot of ur­gency in Toronto and a lot of char­ac­ter from our whole group. That’s some­thing we need at home-ice too. We need that punch-first men­tal­ity. … Come out, get a lit­tle (ticked) off and take con­trol of the game.

“You watch some of the games, es­pe­cially when I was hurt, and it’s al­most like we’re wait­ing for the game to start in­stead of tak­ing charge of it. If we get a power play in the first pe­riod, or the first 10 min­utes, we have to cre­ate mo­men­tum and a buzz off of that.”

Nathan MacKin­non agreed on the slow starts.

“I think our starts are get­ting the build­ing quiet,” he said. “It’s kind of de­flat­ing for us.”

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