While 16 teams begin battling for their playoff existence Saturday, the Colorado Avalanche get to enjoy the rewards of a regular season well played, which are strange this year under a different format.
They’re competing for seeding against the other top three heavyweights in the Western Conference with no threat of elimination, but perks to gain.
“It’s not life-and-death,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar acknowledged.
Last year, Presidents’ Trophy winners the Tampa Bay Lightning were done within the first week of the playoffs. With the addition of a qualifying round, it will take at least a week before Colorado plays an elimination game.
Ease in, but win.
“It’s just three extra games that you have to get your team playing ... to the best they can possibly play before playoffs start,” Bednar said. “We might need it, we might not.”
One thing they do need, in their minds, are the benefits of home ice through the playoffs - again, not the same situation as years past, as they’re in the hub city of Edmonton instead of a roaring Pepsi Center no matter what.
“To me, the home ice advantage, it’s still an advantage,” Bednar said. “Last change, being able to chase the match-ups that you like and avoid ones you don’t is an advantage. I think that’s still our goal.”
Bednar said through training camp there might be assessing happening through the round-robin games, particularly among his goaltenders, both of whom he wants to give game action. He expects to need both with a grueling schedule ahead.
Then there’s the benefits of time and experience. A penalty-filled, sloppy starting 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday gave the team fresh film to go over before the stakes rise.
“It’s about finding our game and getting to our game,” Bednar said. “I didn’t think we were ourselves the other night.”
Note: Bednar said Samuel Girard, who did not play in the exhibition game, was at practice Friday. Andre Burakovsky didn’t participate but is expected back tomorrow.