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'Hungry' for another run at playoffs; third jersey revealed

September 13, 2018, 5:00 PM ET [15 Comments]
Rick Sadowski
Colorado Avalanche Blogger •Avalanche Insider • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Avalanche aren’t about to take a playoff spot for granted as they head into the 2018-19 campaign after qualifying a year ago on the final day of the regular season.

Captain Gabriel Landeskog remembers all too well that they missed the playoffs three years in a row after finishing first in the Central Division in 2013-14 before losing to Minnesota in the first round.

And as if the Western Conference wasn’t already difficult enough, the San Jose Sharks on Thursday acquired stud defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators.

“We kind of came in (in 2014-15) thinking we were an automatic playoff team, not remembering how much hard work went into (the previous) season and not remembering how hard it is to make the playoffs in this league,” Landeskog said Thursday at the Pepsi Center, where the Avalanche opened training camp with medicals and physical testing.

They’ll be on the ice starting Friday at Family Sports Center in Centennial.

“It’s making sure that we mature as a group and making sure we remember how much hard work and paying attention to detail goes into being professional and all of that, all those things that we did last year to come together as a group, remembering that we got to do that again and take that to the next level,” Landeskog said.

The Avalanche finished fourth in the division with 95 points, a 47-point improvement from the previous season, and lost to the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Nashville Predators in six games in the opening round.

“You never feel a sense of accomplishment, you just feel that much hungrier after getting a taste of the playoffs,” Landeskog said. “I think what’s similar is the feeling of being hungry and wanting to take that next step. It’s the reason why we didn’t make that many moves this year, we want to see guys take the next step, veterans included.”

The Avalanche had a massive turnover in player personnel following the disastrous 2016-17 season but kept moves to a minimum this summer.

They acquired goalie Philipp Grubauer from the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals – he and Semyon Varlamov give Colorado a solid tandem in net – and signed defenseman Ian Cole and forward Matt Calvert from the Columbus Blue Jackets as free agents.

“Everyone knows coming in that the playoffs is the expectation,” said center Nathan MacKinnon, who had a career-high 97 points (39 goals, 58 assists) last season and was a Hart Trophy finalist. “My first year (2013-14) we made the playoffs, so that’s my standard. I think it’s everybody’s standard now.

“We’re not complacent, but it’s good to feel good. It was embarrassing coming in last (in 2016-17) the way we did, but we definitely rebounded and we’re going to have to prove ourselves again this year.

“I still think we’re trying to prove ourselves. We’re not guaranteed a playoff spot by any means. We’re going to have to fight for it. Our division’s really solid; things can change, but hopefully our spot remains the same in April, but we’ll have to work for it.”

Expectations should be high, said third-year coach Jared Bednar, who was a Jack Adams Trophy finalist last season.

“Our expectations are to make the playoffs,” he said. “I know it’s very difficult to do in the Central Division, but I feel like there’s no reason why we can’t be where we were last year, no reason why we can’t be better as long as we all come with the right attitude and a commitment to get better every day.

“We have to raise the bar. To me, it starts with consistency. There’s always ups and downs in your season, but as long as we’re not just treading water every day in practice and we’re coming to get better and we’re willing to work … having good habits and winning habits every time we step on the ice, that will be key for me.”

Here’s the camp schedule at Family Sports Center in Centennial (free and open to the public, MT):

Group 1 on ice: 8:45-10:15 a.m.
Group 2 on ice: 10:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Group 2 on ice: 8:45-10:15 a.m.
Group 1 on ice: 10:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Group 1 on ice: 8:45-10:15 a.m.
Group 2 on ice: 10:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Group 2 on ice: 8:45-10:15 a.m.
Group 1 on ice: 10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Preseason (all times MT)
Tue, Sept. 18 – VEGAS, 7 p.m.
Sat, Sept. 22 -- at Minnesota, 4 p.m.
Mon, Sept. 24 -- at Vegas, 8 p.m.
Wed, Sept. 26 – DALLAS, 7 p.m.
Fri, Sept. 28 – MINNESOTA, 7 p.m.
Sun, Sept. 30 -- at Dallas, 4 p.m.

The regular-season opener is against Minnesota at the Pepsi Center on Thursday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m.

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