Coming off his best season in the NHL, Evan Rodrigues came to Colorado on a one year deal to prove he can do it again.
He’s shown that not only can he do it again, but he had even more room for growth.
With seven points in his last five games, and scoring at a higher pace than he ever has in the NHL, Rodrigues has been a perfect fit with the Avalanche. His ability to play with anyone has given his head coach options.
He understands exactly how to play with the superstar. That’s not something every player can do.
“A guy like Nate, you want to give him time and space,” Rodrigues told me after morning skate. “You want to clear lanes for him. When he takes a guy on one on one, he’s going to win that battle 99% of the time, so just finding open areas and letting him find me.”
But why has he been able to fit with just about anyone on the roster?
“I like to pride myself on a high hockey IQ,” Rodrigues said. “There’s other players you play with that like having everyone close, winning loose puck battles, and having support in the corners. Just being able to find what makes other people better and find the chemistry in that.”
His teammates have quickly seen the value he provides.
“I feel like his skill and offensively he’s a really good player,” Mikko Rantanen said when asked about what Rodrigues brings to the lineup.
“He’s important for us, we haven’t been scoring that many goals in the last little bit, so he helps with that.”
The presence of Rodrigues on Saturday night allowed the Avalanche to break up the dynamic duo of MacKinnon and Rantanen. A big reason why is the trust the head coach has in Rodrigues.
“A good 200 foot player,” Bednar said when asked about Rodrigues. “He’s a responsible defensive guy but a lot of deception in his game, a lot of ability with the puck. Doesn’t like to throw it away, and has the ability to hang onto it with his skating a deception.”
The 29 year old has found his fit in Colorado.
“He has the ability to compliment and help others,” Bednar said. “He thinks it like a top six guy, he thinks it like a top skill guy in the league.”
Nichushkin Letting Ankle Heal
Valeri Nichushkin was supposed to go on the two game road trip with the Avalanche last week.
That did not happen.
“We’re just letting that ankle heal,” Bednar said after morning skate.
After signing an eight year extension with the Avalanche in the summer, it’s been a frustrating season for the gigantic Russian. He’s only been able to suit up for 15 games after having off-season surgery.
A big piece for the Avalanche, they would be wise to let him heal before rushing him back into the lineup.
It appears that’s what they’re going to do.
The Avalanche take on the Panthers tonight at Ball Arena. The game starts at 7:30 PM MST.