The Colorado Avalanche are looking for answers, something to help turn things around in their last three games before an extended break.
They hope they’ll find them starting Thursday night against the struggling San Jose Sharks.
The Avalanche have lost four in a row, the past two in overtime, and are slipping in the standings. Their inability to hold leads in the third period has been a big factor during a 3-6-3 stretch, as it was against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.
“We did a lot of really good things, but again, we got to learn how to finish games,” Colorado defenseman Ian Cole said after the loss to the Stars. “We can play the best game in the world, but if we lose, it’s still a loss right? We don’t really take moral victories around here, and two points is really all that matters, especially as we continue on through this year.”
The Avalanche have three home games before their hiatus and the All-Star break, when they won’t play for 11 days, which means piling up points is vital to keep pace in the postseason race. It starts against the Sharks, who are struggling to get back into the playoff picture.
They’ve gone 6-11-3 since the start of December and have fallen to sixth in the Pacific Division. Trying to climb back was made tougher when they lost leading scorer Logan Couture to a fractured left ankle last week.
San Jose has shown signs of turning things around, going 4-2-1 in its past seven games despite falling at Arizona on Tuesday night. The rough six-week stretch might have put them in the seller category as the trade deadline approaches, but the players still believe the current roster can get the Sharks to the postseason.
“We believe we’ve got the skill and the character on this team to get a playoff spot,” forward Timo Meier said after the 6-3 loss to the Coyotes. “There’s still a lot of games left. We’ve made some steps in the right direction, and we’ve got to battle every game. That’s really important. We’ve got to take it day by day and win some games.”
The six goals scored by Arizona were the most San Jose had allowed in more than a month and uncharacteristic of how the team has played lately.
“This (was) a big game for us,” Sharks interim coach Bob Boughner said. “We got away from how we’ve played in the last couple weeks. It’s one of those games where we’ve got to make some corrections and come out a little more structured against Colorado.”
The Avalanche will play their third straight game without forward and former Shark Joonas Donskoi, who is in the concussion protocol after taking a hard check at the New York Rangers on Jan. 7. Donskoi has been skating but is wearing a non-contact jersey during practice, and coach Jared Bednar said he is not ready to return.
With or without Donskoi, Colorado needs to turn things around, overall and on special teams.
“We got to find a way to stay out of the penalty box, because the penalty kill is in a little bit of a slump,” goaltender Philipp Grubauer said after Tuesday’s game. “We got to find a way to get out there, but we got to work.”