ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Slumping Colorado forward Jarome Iginla experimented with a new stick at practice Monday. Anything to ignite a team that’s constantly winding up on the short end of one this season.
The Avs have accumulated a league-worst 19 points through 23 games in coach Jared Bednar’s first season at the helm. They’re missing their captain, top defenseman and a consistent scoring punch as they tumble farther behind the Central Division leaders.
“There’s no question we’ve been pressing a little bit and pushing,” said Iginla, whose team begins a four-game trip Tuesday night in Nashville. “We know the importance, because we don’t want to dig ourselves too big of a hole. We’ve just got to make sure we’re as sharp as we can be.”
Iginla shelved his old stick after scoring just one goal in his last 15 contests. They early returns on this particularly curved model are favorable, too. He beat Calvin Pickard with a shot in practice that had the backup goaltender gushing later on.
“I’m due. I’m due for a change,” said the 39-year-old Iginla, who’s scored 614 career goals and sits 11 away from tying Hall of Fame forward/Avalanche GM Joe Sakic for 15th place on the all-time list. “I’d like to get contributing here, production-wise, for the group.”
The team has scored just 49 times this season, which is among the lowest in the league. They’re generating 29.2 shots per game – five less than NHL leader Pittsburgh.
The scoring chances have certainly been there for speedy forward Nathan MacKinnon, who had a league-high 61 shots in November. But he’s just not cashing in at the moment, with only four goals last month. He has five for the season and 10 assists.
“It’s a matter of putting the puck in the net, because once you get hot, they tend to start going in,” said MacKinnon, who a signed $44.1 million, seven-year deal in the offseason. “It will turn for me.”
This could help turn the team’s luck around as well – captain Gabriel Landeskog is nearing a return after missing eight games with a lower-body injury. He skated Monday, but will miss Tuesday’s game.
“Landy is progressing,” Bednar said. “He’s felt better every day for about the last three of four days.”
Still, the Avalanche will be without defenseman Erik Johnson for at least six-to-eight weeks after he broke his leg while blocking a shot against Dallas on Saturday. He’s been a big presence for Colorado this season with 10 assists.
For Bednar, the most puzzling aspect of Colorado’s struggles has been the inconsistency. One night, it could be the power play. The next, maybe the goaltending.
“Part of the reason we’re going through this and we’re neck deep in it right now is because it’s something different beating us every night,” said Bednar, who took over when Patrick Roy surprisingly stepped aside in August. “It’s not the same thing. You cure one thing and get better at it and something else pops up.
“We’re lacking that unity, that consistency, that togetherness that you need in order to win a hockey game.”
Their play at home hasn’t helped. The Avs went 0-4-1 on their recent homestand to fall to 4-8-1 at Pepsi Center this season.
Heading out on the road might be the ideal thing to clear their heads.
“We have a chance to get a fresh start,” MacKinnon said. “There’s some desperation, for sure, to be better. But we’re not going to be stressed. That would be the worst thing we could do.”
NOTES: Colorado recalled D Cody Goloubef from San Antonio of the American Hockey League. Asked what Goloubef brought, Bednar said: “Well, he brings us a healthy defenseman right now.” … D Fedor Tyutin (lower body) will travel with the team and could play Tuesday. … Goaltender Semyon Varlamov will start in goal at Nashville.
– By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
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