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The Colorado Avalanche got back to work today following their entertaining-but-unproductive two-game road trip to western Canada last week. Today was the last of four days off as their next game comes Wednesday night against the league-leading Nashville Predators.
It will be the first matchup of the two teams who met in the first round of the playoffs last season. The series ended up with some bad blood between the teams and hulking Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov was naturally in the heart of the feistiness between the two teams. His physical play didn’t sit well with a Predators team whose moodiness was a running theme for them in their shorter-than-expected postseason run.
But before Zadorov and company turn their sole focus to Nashville, they have to look inwards to see what happened in Canada last week as the Avalanche gave up 13 goals in two games.
“Giving up less than six goals,” Zadorov said of what the defense needs to be focusing on. “It’s hard to win games when you give up so many goals. The main thing is probably details. Every [defenseman] needs to focus on their game and bring our best game. That’s our best chance to win.”
The 23-year-old Zadorov is down in minutes and shifts this year as the rise of Sam Girard and the addition of Ian Cole has left Zadorov searching for a new role. After averaging 19:28 and nearly 25 shifts per game, Zadorov is down to 15:40 and 20.5 shifts per game this year. Is the drop in ice time having a negative impact as he adjusts to fewer shifts?
“A little bit because you kind of get cold,” Zadorov told BSN Denver. “It is what it is, you know? I can only control my game. It doesn’t matter how many minutes I get, I go out there and play however many they give me.”
Despite the drop in ice time, Zadorov’s game has seen a boost lately as he’s begun finding more of a rhythm in the reduced role.
“I think I’m picking it up,” he said. “My main thing right now…I probably need to work harder to help my team win those games like every [defenseman] in this room. It’s what we have to focus on. Our mindset has to be ‘Bring your best game’ so our team has a chance to win the hockey game.”
Playing on the most talented defense of his career might have ended up in a drop in ice time for now but Zadorov says the internal competition will ultimately bring out the best in a fierce group of competitors.
“It helps a lot,” Zadorov said of competing against his talented teammates every day. “We compete every time in practice, we compete in the game. It’s always a battle for the spots and for ice time. It’s great. That’s why we love the sport. We’re pushing each other.”
Offseason shoulder surgery for Zadorov also hampered some of what he felt comfortable doing early in the season but he feels as if he’s reached a point where he’s healthy enough to get back to playing the punishing style was became known for last season when he led the NHL in hits.
“I was dealing with a few injuries before and that’s why I was holding back a little bit,” Zadorov said. “Now I’m all good. I feel great on the ice and preparing myself mentally differently.”
So watch out everyone else?
News and Notes
- Tyson Jost skated in a non-contact jersey today. He was set to meet with doctors after practice and his status for tomorrow’s game against Nashville will be determined following morning skate tomorrow. The expectation, for now, is he will not play as they try to be cautious with his return but the doctors could clear him tomorrow and change that.
- J.T. Compher skated in a non-contact jersey on the other practice rink today with Sven Andrighetto. Jared Bednar said after practice Compher was not making much progress yet
- Andrighetto, on the other hand, is coming along nicely and Bednar said he could an option for the Avalanche on the team’s upcoming road trip.
- Semyon Varlamov will get the start against Nashville tomorrow night