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Practice Notebook: Avalanche Set Sights on Top Spot in Conference




A month ago, the Colorado Avalanche were focused on finding their way into a playoff spot.

Now? They have their sights set a little higher.

“We’re not only fighting for our lives, but we’re fighting for number one in the conference, and that’s the way I see it,” Head coach Jared Bednar said after practice Thursday. “It’s a good challenge for our team, and I like it for our team.”

The Avalanche have gone 11-2-2 in their last 15 games to put themselves in a better position in the standings. It has also helped that the teams they’re chasing, Winnipeg and Dallas, have fallen off a bit.

Winnipeg, who the Avalanche will play Friday evening, are 4-6 in their last 10 games, and sit just four points ahead of Colorado. Meanwhile, Dallas has kept accumulating points, but most of those have come in games they’ve lost in either overtime or a shootout. They’re sitting at 2-3-5 in their last 10 games, and currently lead the league with 12 losses after regulation. They sit just five points ahead of Colorado.

The Avalanche currently have three games in hand on both these teams.

The top team in the Western Conference, standings wise, is the Vegas Golden Knights. They currently have 73 points, but have played two more games than Colorado.

Bednar said he only likes to look at the standings once a week. With the players, it depends on who you ask.

“At this time of the year, yeah,” Mikko Rantanen said when asked if he watches the standings. “Earlier in the year, I don’t really follow it that much, standings especially. But now? Definitely.”

It’s hard to move up in the standings when you aren’t playing, though.

The last time the Avalanche played was Sunday afternoon. This four game gap between games might be tough for fans, but the players appreciate it a little bit. That might be because they play 27 games in the next 50 days.

“You don’t (often) get these four days. That’s pretty rare,” Rantanen said about the break. “We’ve enjoyed it, and recharged the batteries a little bit. Now we don’t get any more breaks. It’s full gas, I would say. We’re ready for it.”

News and Notes From Practice

It doesn’t appear as though the Avalanche will make any changes to their top line combinations. The roster will look a little different than it did Sunday afternoon, though.

Ben Meyers was sent back to the Colorado Eagles after the Oilers game. Today, the club recalled defenseman Brad Hunt. That would seem to indicate the club will go back to the 11/7 setup, running with an extra defenseman.

The reason for that could be that Josh Manson is still getting his feet back under him after missing so much time due to injury. The team decided to only play Manson in one-half of the back to back last weekend. They hope he can play both Friday and Saturday this weekend.

“It’s all by feel, like how he feels,” Bednar said about Manson. “He felt great last weekend, don’t get me wrong, but that was kind of the plan going into it. I’m hoping that he’s able to play them both this weekend after the time off and the rest.”

Cale Makar skated before practice, but is still in concussion protocol and will not play either game this weekend. He continues to be evaluated on a daily basis.

In net, the team sent Justus Annunen back to the Eagles, and recalled Jonas Johansson. The organization doesn’t want Annunen sitting around for long stretches of time, and would prefer him playing.

Does that mean Alexandar Georgiev will start both weekend games?

“Possibly,” Bednar said.

The Avalanche will face-off against the Winnipeg Jets Friday evening, and the Calgary Flames Saturday night at Ball Arena.

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