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Avs host Senators in bid to halt home-ice woes

Dec 19, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Andrew Cogliano (11) leaves the ice due to an injury during the third period against the New York Islanders at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Ottawa Senators on Thursday night celebrated D.J. Smith’s 100th career win since becoming the team’s head coach in 2019.

The Colorado Avalanche have been celebrating nothing of late. The reigning Stanley Cup champions are spiraling after losing to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, their seventh loss in the last eight games.

Ottawa can make it eight losses in nine games when the teams meet Saturday night in Colorado.

The Senators extended Arizona’s losing streak to seven games with a 5-3 win at the Coyotes and evened their season record at 19-19-3. Saturday will be the second game of a three-game road trip for Ottawa.

Despite Colorado’s struggles, Smith knows it won’t be easy to beat a team on its home ice.

“It’s hard to win in this league,” Smith said after the win over Arizona. “We’ve been in those games where we’ve been beat up on the shot clock and you just stay in the game. You can’t cheat.”

Forward Mark Kastelic will try to come down from the excitement of scoring the game-winning goal against the Coyotes. Kastelic was playing his first NHL game in his hometown with family and friends in attendance.

“It’s very surreal,” Kastelic said. “I’ve dreamed about this moment since I was a kid. You kind of have a lot of ups and downs along the way, and I’m finally here. It was really special.”

Home ice hasn’t been helpful for the Avalanche during their losing streak. They have dropped four in a row at Ball Arena – one in a shootout – and have fallen to 9-8-3 at home. Colorado has weathered multiple injuries this year, but the recent slide is somewhat self-inflicted.

Defensive breakdowns and a struggling power play have been problems. The Avalanche were at the top of the NHL in power-play percentage early in the season, but since Nathan MacKinnon returned from an upper-body injury on Dec. 31 they are 1-for-24 with the man advantage.

“I think we’re past moral victories at this point,” forward Evan Rodrigues said. “We’re past, ‘We had a good third (period).’ It’s not good enough. We’re past that. We’ve got to bear down at practice and figure out a way to get some points here. It’s seven out of the last eight. That’s just not good enough.”

Colorado was scheduled to practice at noon local time Friday but the start was pushed back for a team meeting. After practice, forward Andrew Cogliano steered blame away from the coaches.

“That’s on the players,” Cogliano said. “I really feel strongly about that as a collective.”

Coach Jared Bednar said after practice that Darren Helm will miss time because of a lower-body injury that kept him out of the first 35 games of the season. He left Thursday’s game, his fifth since coming back, and didn’t return.

Forward Alex Newhook and defenseman Cale Makar sat out practice for maintenance days, Bednar said. Newhook took a puck to the face against Chicago but returned to the lineup.

–Field Level Media

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