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Frei: How much the Avalanche want to get to next level will show in how hard they check and defend (+)

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Jack Johnson

The Avalanche are coming out of the All-Star break with a 32-8-4 record under a mounting — and largely self-imposed — pressure to win the Stanley Cup or be pronounced underachieving disappointments.

Yes, that’s a tough standard, especially since the first game back, against the two-time defending Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night, will be a reminder of the magnitude of the challenge.

In the playoffs, there are no matchups against the Kraken, Coyotes, Devils and Canadiens. You can grind your way through the most relentlessly testing postseason in professional sports and hoist the Cup after winning 57 percent of your games, so it also requires a short memory — the ability to forget or learn, and also rebound.

After practice Tuesday, I asked those made available — Jared Bednar, Mikko Rantanen and Darcy Kuemper — what they would be looking to accomplish down the stretch, besides win games.

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