|Avs aim to start new streak vs. Panthers|
SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Colorado Avalanche will be ready when they visit the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, and that is -- essentially -- a promise.
The Avs had an 11-game points streak snapped on Tuesday in a 6-3 loss at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"We have to have a short memory," said Avs coach Jared Bednar after Colorado's unbeaten string of 9-0-2 was broken. "That's what we've been preaching. I don't care what we did yesterday, the day before or the week before.
"I'm worried about the next game, and that's the way our whole team thinks. That approach was how we were able to sustain our points streak."
Colorado's approach has been working. After finishing last in the league in 2016-2017 with only 48 points, the Avs earned 95 points last season and made the playoffs. Their 47-point improvement ranks as the fourth-best in NHL history.
Meanwhile, the Panthers started slowly last season and finished with a rush -- only to fall one point short of the playoffs.
They have started slowly again this season but have started to gain some momentum during their current eight-game home stretch. There are just two games left on this stand -- the Avs on Thursday and the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Of the 16 points available to the Panthers in those games, they have picked up eight so far (3-1-2), and they could leave with 12 if all goes well the rest of this week.
On Tuesday, the Panthers (11-10-5) turned in their most decisive win of the season, routing the Boston Bruins 5-0.
Mike Hoffman scored two goals, Aleksander Barkov had three assists, and goalie Roberto Luongo returned from his second stint on injured reserve this season to record his 77th career shutout, taking sole possession of ninth place on the all-time NHL list.
"It was great to have 'Lu' back in there," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said of Luongo, who made 32 saves in his first appearance since Nov. 23. "You could see he was in full control back there. His rebound control was amazing. There weren't many second chances laying around his crease."
Luongo has played just 10 games this season due to a pair of lower-body injuries.
Assuming he plays on Thursday -- Boughner may be careful with the 39-year-old goalie and opt to start James Reimer instead -- he will face an Avs team that leads the Western Conference with 10 road wins.
The Avalanche are 10-5-2 on the road and 16-7-5 overall. With 37 points, the Avs are second in the Western Conference, trailing only the Nashville Predators (39 points).
Florida, with 27 points, entered Wednesday tied with the Ottawa Senators for last place in the Atlantic Division.
The Panthers' offense is led by Hoffman, who was acquired from Ottawa in a steal of a trade this past offseason and has a team-high 14 goals. He also has 26 points in his past 24 games.
Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau is also hot with six straight multi-point games. He had one goal and two assists on Tuesday and has three goals and 11 assists during his streak. Huberdeau can tie Pavel Bure's franchise record with a multi-point game his next time out.
Colorado can counter with perhaps the top line in the NHL -- center Nathan MacKinnon and wingers Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.
This Avs trio ranks 1-2-3 on the team in points: Rantanen with 11 goals and team highs in assists (35) and points (46); MacKinnon with a team-high 19 goals and 43 points; and Landeskog with 16 goals and 31 points.
All three of them are age 26 or younger, and MacKinnon, 23, finished second in the Hart Trophy voting last season and also second in the NHL in points per game.