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Avalanche Notebook: Tufte Ready; Which Veteran Gets Scratched?



Avalanche Practice

Riley Tufte is back up with the Colorado Avalanche, and from the looks of practice on Tuesday afternoon, he’ll be replacing a veteran in the lineup.

What veteran he replaces still remains to be seen.

Tufte, who is off to a tremendous start with the Colorado Eagles, isn’t just going to be stashed on the fourth line (to start, at least). They’re giving him a real opportunity.

At practice, he skated on one side of Ryan Johansen, with Valeri Nichushkin on the other side. Barring something drastic, that would appear to be the second line when the Avalanche take on the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday evening.

“It’s going to be awesome playing with two pretty special players,” Tufte said after practice. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for me. They know I’m going to be in front of the net, so try to get as many pucks there as we can and try to go to work. I know St. Louis has a bigger team, so it’ll be good for me.”

While Tufte essentially made the team out of camp, the Avalanche sent him to the Eagles so that he could continue playing. In six games in the AHL, he has scored six goals, and registered 33 shots on net.

Tufte knew he would eventually make his way back to the NHL. When asked how much of the recall had to do with Tufte’s play, and how much had to do with being shutout in back-to-back games, Bednar gave most of the credit to the player.

“60/40, (60) probably in his production,” Bednar said. “That’s a guy you want to look at while he’s playing well and feeling it, so kudos to him for going down in a tough situation when he knows he played well up here, and continuing to push to try and make our team. Now, he’s here.”

Who Leaves The Lineup?

With Tufte moving into the top six, an NHL veteran is going to be leaving the lineup. Here were the lines from today…

I imagine it was tough for Bednar to break up that fourth line, but they aren’t getting any production, so something had to change.

Based off the lines from today, I’d imagine one of Jonathan Drouin or Tomas Tatar is coming out of the lineup. There’s the outside chance they give Andrew Cogliano a veteran night off, but I doubt that.

Tatar has more points, but has registered just one shot on goal in eight games. That’s low production from someone who has generally been a good shot generator in his career.

“It’s okay,” Bednar said of Tatar’s game. “There’s more, though. There’s more in his game, from what we’ve seen.”

As for Drouin, he’s had his chances, but has failed to score.

Is he a little bit snakebit at the moment?

“He is,” Bednar said. “He’s created more than some of our other new guys.”

If I was a betting man, I’d say Tatar gets the scratch, but it could go either way. When asked who is coming out of the lineup, Bednar would not answer, as expected.

Overall, the team is looking for more from the new additions, but doesn’t want any of them thinking that they aren’t helping the team.

I asked specifically about Ross Colton, who is second on the team in 5v5 individual expected goals for, but hasn’t been able to beat a goaltender in an Avalanche uniform.

“I think he’s coming,” Bednar said.

Then he went into more detail on all of the new additions.

“I think we got a lot of new guys that are still figuring it out,” Bednar said. “I think there’s two sides to it. First of all, their feelings. Lots of these guys are offensive guys. They’re 200-foot players that want to produce and be able to help your team, putting pressure on themselves. I’d say the play within the structure of all our new guys is okay, but it can be better.”

Essentially, they might be putting too much pressure on themselves to make an impression on a new team.

Bednar continued.

“Trying too hard and trying to do too much, at times, is an issue,” he said. “I think the balance of them finding an identity as a line, being really detailed in the structure of the game, making sure our competitiveness and work ethic is where it needs to be, the results eventually take care of themselves. I don’t want them to feel like they’re not contributing because they’re not on the scoresheet every night, and I feel like some of them do. We’re going to work through that, help them as much as we can help. I think it’s a matter of time before you start to see things with our new guys start to gel a little bit.”

Prosvetov To Start?

Bednar did not confirm Ivan Prosvetov will start on Wednesday, but he sure hinted at it.

“His last two games, probably not as sharp as the first, two, three, four,” Bednar said of Alexandar Georgiev. “That’s usually an indication that a little mental break for him could be good, so yep, I think we’ll see the other guy (Prosvetov) soon.”

Prosvetov stayed out late working with goalie coach Jussi Parkkila and forward Valeri Nichushkin, who he sits next to in the locker room. I was hoping to chat with him, but hey, work comes first.

Other News And Notes

  • Defenseman Caleb Jones was also brought up this morning. Both Cale Makar and Bowen Byram did not practice, and are questionable for Wednesday night’s game. They expect one to play, and Jones is ready to go, if needed. As all the new players have mentioned, he could feel immediately just how high the standard is with the Avalanche.
    • “They don’t accept anything less than the best,” Jones said. “Just try to come in, fit in, and match that work ethic that everyone else has.”
  • The Avalanche had just five defensemen for practice today, which made it difficult for them to do much 5v5 work, even though Bednar knows they need it. That meant a really long video session. Typically, the goalies get on first, but the video session and meeting must have gone long, as that didn’t happen.
  • Bednar did go into a little more detail on why he has Bowen Byram and Sam Girard together, and it has nothing to do with play styles. He wants them together because he expects more out of them, and wants them to play more. Jack Johnson and Josh Manson also are used for mainly defensive zone starts.
    • “If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, we’ll experiment,” Bednar said.

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