The NHL scrapped its preseason to get to the real games sooner. The lack of exhibitions showed in the Colorado Avalanche's performance on Wednesday night, a 4-1 loss to the visiting St. Louis Blues.
The good news for Colorado is it doesn't have to wait long to get things right against the Blues -- the two teams meet again in Denver on Friday night.
For the Avalanche, it will be a chance to correct things while St. Louis will try to do more of the same. The Blues gave up the first goal but scored twice in the first and two more in the third to open the season with the victory.
St. Louis, the 2019 Stanley Cup champion, looked strong on offense, defense and goaltending. Two of the Blues' newest players, forward Kyle Clifford and defenseman Torey Krug, blended in seamlessly in their debuts. Clifford had a third-period goal that made it 3-1.
The other offseason signing, forward Mike Hoffman, wasn't available because his work visa had not yet been approved.
"It's next man up," said center Oskar Sundqvist, who had two goals Wednesday night. "It doesn't matter if it's me or someone else. It's always someone that's stepping up. That's one of our strengths with this team, that we got that mentality. No one really changes their game; they just move up the lineup and play the same style. It's nice to see."
Colorado's two newest acquisitions, forward Brandon Saad and defenseman Devon Toews, played Wednesday, though Toews had a scary moment when he took an elbow to the head from St. Louis forward Sammy Blais.
Toews went to the locker room but returned, logging 22:17 of ice time, third on the team.
Blais had a hearing with the league office on Thursday, but a decision isn't expected to come until Friday. Hoffman will likely be in the lineup in place of Blais either way.
Toews was on the top defensive pairing with Cale Makar and his presence is needed with Erik Johnson not with the team after testing positive for COVID-19. If everything goes well, Johnson could return to the team on Saturday.
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar is planning on changing his lines for Friday night. He said after practice on Thursday he will move left winger Gabriel Landeskog back to the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen and drop Andre Burakovsky to the second line with Nazem Kadri and Saad.
Shaking up the lines is one adjustment, but Colorado needs a stronger effort. Turnovers led to goals against the Blues and mistakes have to be cleaned up or the risk falling to 0-2 in a shortened season increases.
Rantanen acknowledged the lack of preseason was a factor Wednesday night.
"Short camp, first game, so we just have to learn from it now," he said. "We didn't have a lot going. It's compete level, it's not system or anything, it's in our head. We have to be prepared. St. Louis plays like that every year, they're a heavy team, they check hard, so you have to respond to that. You can't sit back and watch like we did in the first. That's what cost us the most."
--Field Level Media
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