David Zalubowski, The Associated Press Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen, left, struggles to stay on his skates as he becomes entangled with the stick of Edmonton Oilers left wing Drake Caggiula, right, as Colorado defenseman Nikita Zadorov, back, looks on in the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, in Denver.
Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who was benched in the entire third period of the last two games, will be back on the team’s top pairing with Tyson Barrie in Monday’s game against the visiting Vancouver Canucks. Zadorov, 22, spoke about his benchings for the first time Monday after the morning skate at the Pepsi Center.
“It’s a new day, a new game, so that’s what I’m focusing on,” he told The Denver Post.
Zadorov was turnover-prone in losses at Edmonton (overtime) and Calgary last week and committed the Avs’ first three penalties against the Flames. When asked what he needs to do better Monday against the Canucks, he said: “I think it’s between me and (coach Jared Bednar).”
Bednar was asked the same question. “We need him to get back to his basic play, where he’s playing physical, moving his feet and he’s taking care of the puck,” the coach said. “Handful of mistakes, they start piling up at this time of the year and we don’t have the luxury to wait around and see if a guy comes around in a game. We’re playing to win. You try to give some leeway (but) he started out the same way the next night with some tough decisions, and some turnovers, penalties against.”
Waiver acquisition. Hours before Monday’s 1 p.m. trade deadline, the Avs picked up pending unrestricted free-agent defenseman Mark Alt on waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers. Alt, 26, played just eight games with the Flyers this season and has only played nine career NHL games. He will report immediately to the Avalanche in Denver to help provide depth for a team missing three defensemen to injury, including ice-time leader Erik Johnson (upper-body).
“I don’t know him very well. I know his history,” Bednar said of Alt, the son of former Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman John Alt. “He’s cracked into the lineup for a handful of games this year. Big guy, skates pretty well, right-handed shot. That’s all I really know about him.”
Alt, 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, was born in Kansas City., Mo., grew up in St. Paul, Minn., and played three seasons for the University of Minnesota. He was drafted by Carolina in the second round (53rd overall) in 2010 but never played for the Hurricanes.
His $650,000 contract expires after this season, so he’s generally in a tryout situation with the Avs.
Injury updates. Johnson remains out indefinitely, Bednar said, and although the team is sticking to the generic “upper-body,” his injury is believed to be a broken wrist or separated shoulder.
Defenseman Anton Lindholm (upper-body), who has missed the last three games, participated in the morning skate in a non-contact jersey and has made significant progress, Bednar said. The coach said goalie Jonathan Bernier (head) and forward Sven Andrighetto (leg) skated on their own Monday and are improving.
Defenseman Mark Barberio, however, is not expected to skate anytime soon, and is out indefinitely with what is believed to be a concussion.
Footnote. Goalie Semyon Varlamov will make his third consecutive start, with Andrew Hammond as his backup.