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As the Colorado Avalanche wrapped up their four-game east coast road trip with three straight wins, the Tampa Bay Lightning was doing some work of their own.
Now the two come head-to-head in a battle of the elements on Wednesday night at Pepsi Center in a nationally televised melee. Leading the charge for the Avalanche has been an exceptional top line that has all three members off to incredible starts to the season. On the other side is a more balanced attack but one that hasn’t really found its offensive legs quite yet.
While Colorado’s top unit continues chugging along, the talented defensive group manning the Avalanche blue line has yet to score a goal this season.
“I’m sure we’ll get a couple,” Tyson Barrie said. “Goals seem to be one of those things for d-men where you won’t get one for a while and then you’ll get two or three in a couple games or whatever. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter as long as the wins keep coming. That’s the real truth of it. We obviously want to chip in offensively but wins are the most important thing right now.”
While the goals haven’t been there, both Barrie and Erik Johnson have produced five assists to open the season and the defense as a whole has chipped in 18 assists through the team’s first nine games.
“We’ve just been cruising along,” Barrie said. “It feels like we’ve got a really good team. We’ve got a good D corps here and it just feels like we’re cruising right now. It’s a good feeling.”
The road trip out east provided the Avalanche an early opportunity to all that team bonding stuff it took them about a month to get to last season.
“It’s nice,” Barrie began. “By the end of that road trip, it felt a little long but we had a couple of team dinners and obviously, it was a successful road trip so it was a lot of fun.”
The road-heavy slate may have provided a chance for some hotel shenanigans to bring the boys together but it’s also a mental grind when you’re hopping from city to city every other day. Given Colorado’s extended run of success at home in the last year, the Avalanche are pulling the positives from the early-season travels.
“It’s kind of tough,” Barrie said. “It’s an interesting little schedule we’ve got here early but maybe it will make it a little easier down the road for us. If we can stay focused and have success during this time it’s going to make it a lot easier.”
With the Lightning in town, the Avalanche are playing one the NHL’s elite teams and the only team in the NHL who has spent less of their season trailing than Colorado.
“They’ve obviously got a great team, great coach,” Barrie said of tonight’s opponent. “They’ve got some real high-end skill and a great power play so you’ve got to be on your game for every faceoff. Every draw they’re always trying fancy stuff and they’ve got some real game breakers over there so we can’t take a shift off or else it’ll burn you.”
While he hasn’t gotten his own offense going to the level of his satisfaction, Barrie felt he has taken care of his own end along the way but knows his job as quarterback of the power play demands a higher level of play.
“I feel like I’m playing well defensively,” he said. “I’d like to contribute a little more offensively. It’s still early and obviously, the power play is a big part of that and we’re still getting that working. I feel…the whole team is cruising along and that’s a nice feeling. Not concerned.”
Not concerned isn’t a bad way to go through life.
Tonight’s lineup/Injury updates
The lineup is expected to be the same as against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Landeskog MacKinnon Rantanen
Andrighetto Kerfoot Wilson
Nieto Soderberg Calvert
Bourque Jost Dano
Jared Bednar said J.T. Compher is having good days and bad days and still needs to meet with the doctors but declined to give any kind of timeline for a return.
Conor Timmins is back in Denver after a quick trip back home to rest and recharge his batteries. It’s definitely a good sign to have him back in Colorado but there remains no timeline for him getting back on the ice with a team.