The loss of Josh Manson took the bite out of the Avalanche defense.
Their most physical defender now out for an extended period of time, the Avalanche needed an intimidator on the back end who could also play real minutes.
That meant a second chance for Andreas Englund.
Sent down to the Colorado Eagles just 10 days earlier after his initial four game call-up, the 26 year old defenseman was brought back up to meet the team in Boston.
15 consecutive games later, he’s made the most of it.
That doesn’t mean he won’t stop fighting.
That fight was on display on Monday night against the Vegas Golden Knights. After taking a big hit from Keegan Kolesar early in the first period, the two would meet again and decide to drop the gloves.
This was not a quick fight.
40 seconds and several haymakers later, their battle would come to an end. At HockeyFights, the majority of voters saw the fight as a “draw”.
I saw it as physically exhausting.
“It’s a lot,” Englund told me after Tuesday’s practice. “It takes a couple of minutes. Well, you’ve got five minutes to recover in the box. It’s exhausting, it’s a lot of effort going into it and you can’t relax for a second or something bad might happen, so it’s tough.”
For someone trying to earn a full time spot in the NHL, relaxing isn’t an option. After being sent back to the Eagles in November, the Avalanche staff communicated clearly what they want Englund to keep working on.
“Make sure to play to my strengths,” Englund said he was told by the team. “Get my gaps tighter and make sure that I have a good first pass. That has always been a big part of my game.”
Playing to his strengths has worked.
A physically imposing man on skates, his 17.44 hits per 60 minutes is highest among regular defensemen on the squad. His mostly steady play has earned him some trust from the staff, as he’s averaging 17 shifts a game since returning to the team in early December.
Has he felt more comfortable this second time around?
“Absolutely,” Englund said. “Especially when you’ve played a few games, you get into it a little bit more, so I would definitely say I’m more comfortable.”
A second round draft pick by the Ottawa Senators in 2014, Englund played 33 games over four seasons with the Canadian club, spending most of his time in the AHL. The Senators did not qualify him in 2021, clearing the way for him to join the Avalanche organization.
Englund knows he’s grown up a lot since his first taste of the NHL.
“You learn a lot through the years,” he told CHN. “It’s a big difference, both maturing as a person and maturing as a hockey player and I feel like I’m better overall than where I was. There’s been a lot of improvement and I’m happy about that.”
When the NHL was facing COVID-19 delays before the 2020-21 season, Englund, a restricted free agent with the Senators at the time, decided to stay in Sweden to play for Västerviks IK. A season ending injury derailed that plan, as he suited up for zero games.
That meant when he started with the Colorado Eagles, he had gone well over a year and a half without playing professional hockey. An adjustment was needed.
“It was definitely an experience to sit out for a year and a half,” he said. “It was frustrating to know I wasn’t where I wanted to be, but it took me a little while and it was an experience to get back from that.”
Manson was back on the ice Tuesday for the first time since leaving the lineup, meaning there might be one less spot on the roster up for grabs soon.
Does Englund think he’s done enough to show he can be an everyday NHL defenseman?
“Yeah,” he said when asked. “I feel like I’m doing good, playing solid defense and being a quick out. I definitely think there’s stuff that I need to work on, but so far, I feel pretty good.”