After the Avalanche Friday morning skate in San Jose — as Nico Sturm‘s first game with Colorado was a few hours away — I asked the 26-year-old center how he saw himself fitting in with his new team and what he could hope to provide.
“I want to help this team win the Stanley Cup,” he said on a Zoom call from the SAP Center. “That’s the goal. When I look back on my time in Minnesota, I think Colorado always was probably one of the teams for sure that was exciting to play against because of the speed. They always were tough games.
“I’m trying to be that piece that maybe puts the team over the top. I know my role in the bottom six. Be tough to play against. I think that’s the biggest thing. When guys see my name on the lineup chart, and they see that I’m playing for Colorado, I want them to think that this team just got tougher to play against.”
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar had seen Sturm on the ice both at practice Thursday and the morning skate Friday.
“He looks good,” Bednar said. “Big strong guy. Long. (We) met with him yesterday on our systems off the ice and he got out and didn’t do any system work in practice but looked good this morning. I think he’s going to be a nice fit for our group.”
Bednar said Sturm initially would center a line between Alex Newhook and J.T. Compher against the Sharks.
Given the two changes this week– the additions of defenseman Josh Manson and Sturm — plus the possibility of more before the Monday trading deadline, is Bednar confident his lineup can mesh by the opening of the playoffs?
“Absolutely,” Bednar said. “We have lots of time. Twenty games is a lot of time. It’ll go quickly, but especially with (Manson) on the back end, this is an experienced guy that’s been around the league for a long time. Just having a couple of meetings with him now and getting through and game and a practice and a pre-game skated, he’s real inquisitive on how we handle specific situations already. I don’t think it’s going to take these guys a lot of time. . . .
“Sometimes it takes a few games and a few practices and a few video sessions to kind of hit all the details. But these guys are smart players. They’re already asking the right questions, so I don’t think it will take that long.”
Sturm said he chose No. 78 because his number 7 from the Wild was already taken by Devon Toews and the No. 8 of his youth was already worn by Cale Makar. Sturm said he had worn 17 “in school,” but that had been Tyson Jost’s number and claiming that might have been tacky. Ray Bourque’s 77 is retired. So, Sturm asked his little brother for help in picking a number, and his suggestion was 78. Sturm said it was “because that was the year my hometown team (in Germany) got honored. I thought that was kind of a nice tribute to them.”
Sturm is the first player in Avs history to wear 78.
I brought up that when the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 1996, Sturm had just turned 1. But I asked if he had been indoctrinated in the Avalanche legend of Uwe Krupp, also from Germany, scoring the series-ending, Cup-clinching goal in the third overtime of Game 4 against the Florida Panthers at Miami.
“I wasn’t watching the game, I’m pretty sure,” Sturm said of the Avs’ 1-0 marathon win. “I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the goal. I’ve seen the goal a couple of times.”
AND IN NET: Bednar said Pavel Francouz would get the start in goal against the Sharks.
LANDESKOG UPDATE (Well, sort of…: Earlier in the week, Bednar had said he was encouraged by the news coming out of Gabriel Landeskog’s Monday knee surgery, but that he wouldn’t know more about a prognosis until team doctors conferred with the physician who did the surgery. Friday morning, Bednar didn’t have much to add.
“We don’t really have a timeline on him,” Bednar said. “He’s out long-term. We’re hoping that he will be able to get back by the end of the regular season and playoffs or sooner. It’s going to depend on how his rehab goes.”
Terry Frei (firstname.lastname@example.org, @tfrei) is a Denver-based author and journalist. He has been named a state’s sportswriter of the year seven times in peer voting — four times in Colorado and three times in Oregon. His seven books include the novels “Olympic Affair” and “The Witch’s Season.” Among his five non-fiction works are “Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming,” “Third Down and a War to Go,” “March 1939: Before the Madness,” and “’77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age.” He also collaborated with Adrian Dater on “Save By Roy,” was a long-time vice president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and has covered the hockey Rockies, Avalanche and the NHL at-large. His web site is www.terryfrei.com and his bio is available at www.terryfrei.com/bio.html
His Colorado Hockey Now column archive can be accessed here