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Avalanche Notebook: Tufte Gone…For Now; Lehkonen Status In Question?




In a somewhat surprising move, the Colorado Avalanche demoted Riley Tufte (and Caleb Jones) to the Colorado Eagles this morning, just one night after Jared Bednar praised Tufte’s performance against the St. Louis Blues.

Tufte was not at practice (his bag and sticks were), but does that mean he’s not an option to play against the Vegas Golden Knights?

Not necessarily.

“He may come back,” Bednar told the media after practice. “Remember, he’s cleared waivers. He has the 10 game, 30 day rule, and we’re going to take advantage of that. We practice today, tomorrow’s off. That’s two more days that he could be on the roster. I’m not saying that he’s not coming back, or that he is coming back for Vegas, but it’s a possibility.”

What Bednar is referring to are the waiver rules in the NHL. Tufte cleared waivers in October, but if he’s on the NHL roster for 30 days, or plays 10 games (whichever comes first), he would have to clear waivers again. The Avalanche took Tufte on the first road trip, so keep in mind that they’ve already used up a good chunk of those 30 days.

One thing that could determine whether or not the Avalanche bring Tufte back is the status of Artturi Lehkonen. The Finnish winger finished the game on Wednesday, but did look to be in some pain after tumbling into Jordan Binnington at the end of the second period. He didn’t practice on Thursday.

Bednar called Lehkonen’s absence “maintenance,” but when asked if there is any concern whether he will miss Saturday’s game, he responded, “not at this point.” I’ve been around enough to know that puts his status into question at least a little bit, so it’s something to monitor.

In the meantime, Jonathan Drouin practiced on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, while Tomas Tatar skated with Ryan Johansen and Valeri Nichushkin. Just because they practiced on those lines doesn’t mean they’ll be there on Saturday.

“We got decisions to make for the next game,” Bednar said.

The coach also discussed his conversations with Drouin and Tatar.

“They went alright. Obviously, there’s disappointment,” Bednar said. “Players want to play, right? I tried to ensure them that it’s just more of an overall team view, for me. It’s not just that I’m super disappointed in their play or something. I feel that both of those guys have been okay…both guys are working hard. I love their attitudes, and all that. Tufte, MacDermid, they’re a part of our team too. I have to take a big picture approach, and in order to do that, someone’s got to come out.”

To his credit, Tatar said all the right things after practice today.

“It’s not like (there’s) any hard feelings. We’re professionals, we’ll move forward,” the veteran winger said. “I don’t think it was anything too bad. We lost two in a row, and we didn’t score any goals. I’m not the first guy, and I won’t be the last one.”

One thing the veteran did admit is that he’s still figuring things out in Colorado, as far as how the team plays and the system. He admitted that right now, he’s thinking a little too much on the ice rather than reacting, and when you do that, you tire a little quicker.

“I’m still getting used to some of the stuff,” Tatar said. “I want to work hard, to be where I want to be, to be where I know I can be, so today was a good day. Every day I start to feel better. A game like that gives you perspective. I’m very happy that we won.”

Other Notes From Practice

  • Cale Makar and Bowen Byram also did not skate, but they should be good to go against Vegas.
  • Bednar admitted it was a difficult decision to break-up the Cogliano-Olofsson-O’Connor line, which was the only consistent line for the Avalanche for the first 8 games.
    • “It’s tough to break up a line that is really playing well,” he said. “I felt like OC could help Colton and Wood. He did, they played great. I don’t like taking away from the line where everyone’s dialed in and doing what they’re supposed to, but sometimes you have to.”
  • The mom’s trip will continue in Vegas. The Avalanche have an itinerary set, and Nathan MacKinnon didn’t want to spill the beans on what’s on it, but everyone is happy to have their mom’s in town.
    • “They’re the reason why we’re all here,” Miles Wood said. “My mom’s been a huge part of who I am as a person. She helped get me here and created me as a man. She taught me a lot of things as a kid, and still to this day, so to have her here and share these few days with her is special.”
  • Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny played together during the 2013-14 season. I asked MacKinnon about Stastny, who announced he is retiring from the NHL, and what memories he has with him.
    • “Awesome. Awesome career,” MacKinnon said. “Sucks it was only one year. I got pretty close with him. Still friends to this day. Meant to reach out yesterday, obviously we were playing. Amazing career. Achieved a lot and a great person, great teammate.”
  • I also spoke to Miles Wood about moving to the Western Conference this year, and he admitted that the travel difference is huge. In New Jersey, a lot of their road trips were quick bus rides or train rides. Now, the closest team is a 2 hour flight away. It’s been an adjustment for him, but he’s already getting used to it. He has six more years to adjust to it, I guess.
  • Ivan Prosvetov spoke to me for a little bit after practice about why he wears #50, and why he came to North America at such a young age. I should have more on that tomorrow.
  • I did get to the bottom of one thing I’ve been interested in – why Devon Toews sits on the floor in intermissions. It’s not that deep, but I like sitting on the floor myself, so I had to ask.

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