|7:00 PM PT8:00 PM MT9:00 PM CT10:00 PM ET3:00 GMT11:00 8:00 PM MST10:00 PM EST7:00 UAE (+1)22:00 ETNaN:� BRT, February 2, 2019
Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado Attendance: 18,027
Avs, Canucks open second half after needed break
The extended break could not have come at a better time for the Colorado Avalanche.
After a disappointing loss to Minnesota on Jan. 23, the Avalanche went on a nine-day hiatus courtesy of the NHL All-Star weekend and a five-day break.
It meant star center Nathan MacKinnon could rest his sore left foot, which kept him out of the mid-season classic but likely won't cost him any games. He was practicing with the team Friday ahead of Saturday's game against the Vancouver Canucks.
The extended break also gave Colorado (22-20-8, 52 points) a chance to reboot. After starting the season strong, the Avalanche have cratered, going from the top of the Central Division standings to sitting outside the Western Conference playoff race.
After the 5-2 loss to Minnesota, the mood was somber, but the hope was nine days off would help the team recalibrate for the rest of the season.
"There has to be (optimism) in that," forward Carl Soderberg said before the All-Star break. "We need to get some energy out of that, because even though we've had all these losses, we're still in it, and that's a good thing."
The first chance to turn things around is against the Canucks, who are embarking on a four-game road trip that will take them through three time zones. Vancouver (23-22-6, 52 points) has plenty of experience playing away from home in the first half of the season. The Canucks have already had three different road trips of six games, including one just before a six-game stretch at home preceding the All-Star break.
The reward is the Canucks get finish the regular season with 10 of their last 14 games at home.
"When we hit (the six-game homestand that led up to the All-Star break) I thought we were a little tired," head coach Travis Green told the Vancouver Sun on Thursday. "That's just the reality. But it seems like we've got a more normal schedule coming up. I'm looking forward to that."
The Avalanche will try to even the season series on Saturday night, and hope they can produce as much offense as they did in Vancouver on Nov. 2. The Canucks pulled out a 7-6 overtime victory, which came in the middle of a five-game Colorado losing streak. The Avalanche rebounded to go 10-1-2 over the following month but have not been the same team, going 5-13-3 since.
The offense has been there, but goaltending has been an issue for the Avalanche. Semyon Varlamov and Philipp Grubauer combined for a 3.22 goals-against average through the first 50 games, 10th highest average in the NHL.
If Colorado wants to make the playoffs for a second straight season, that part of the game has to improve.
Knowing MacKinnon, the team's second-leading scorer with 71 points, is fine is a boost. The line of MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen (74 points) and captain Gabriel Landeskog (team-leading 29 goals) draw the opponents' top defense and still produce. Lately, the other lines have been producing.
If the goaltending improves the Avalanche have a chance to get back into the thick of the playoff race and break out of the slump.
"It's frustrating," Landeskog said last week.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 1, 2019