In the 5-1 destruction of the Minnesota Wild tonight, the Colorado Avalanche were battling not just the invaders from the north but also themselves as the fight to make the opening night roster intensifies entering the final week of the preseason.
One of the most tightly contested battles is on the blue line where youngster Chris Bigras is attempting to separate himself from a pack that also includes Anton Lindholm, Andrei Mironov, and Duncan Siemens. In his first preseason game, Bigras notched two assists and began his ascent towards the lineup after a relatively quiet Rookie Showcase.
Against the Wild tonight, Bigras didn't score any points but he looked in control of the pace much of the time he was on the ice and put three shots on goal while notching 7:21 of power play time and 20:43 overall, good for third on the Colorado blue line on the night.
"I feel like I'm a lot more comfortable out there this year versus previous years just trying to jump in offensively," Bigras said. "I was able to contribute offensively my first game and get things going that way as well."
One of the areas of focus for the Avalanche front office this past summer was to get faster in order to better serve head coach Jared Bednar's vision on how he wants the Avalanche to play. So far, so good.
"We're coming back in the D-zone quicker to support and it's translating into better breakouts," Bigras explained of minor changes to the system this year. "It's resulting in more time to spend in the offensive zone."
For Bigras, the increased emphasis on skating ability and breakouts is tailor-made for his skill set as he sees himself as an answer to the problems that have plagued Colorado in recent years.
"As a D that likes to get up in the rush and to join in offensively, it's huge. The D activating is a huge part of our system and the way the game is going these days. It's good to get my foot moving up the ice and be a part of that."
The battle for the final spot carries into the final week as the Avalanche have just two preseason games remaining, at Dallas on Monday night and at Vegas on Thursday, before the team must decide who to keep for its opening night tilt against the New York Rangers on Oct. 5.
"I can't worry about that and think about that," Bigras said with a chuckle. "I'm just trying to play my game and see where that lands me."
- The Avalanche led the Wild in shots on goal, 39-29. The two teams combined for 15 penalties, continuing the preseason trend of an over the top amount of penalties in each game.
- Tyson Barrie led the Avalanche in shots on goal with seven. The Avalanche defense combined for 15 with only Andrei Mironov failing to tally a SOG.
- Colorado's big guns dominated the score sheet with Nathan MacKinnon scoring three points (2 g, 1 a), and Gabriel Landeskog chipping in two assists of his own.
- Minnesota's lone goal came on the power play, meaning Colorado has still only given up two even-strength goals through four games and none in their previous three contests.