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Avalanche Room: Bednar Raves About ‘Warrior’ Lehkonen, Kovalenko ‘Not Scared Of The Moment’



Avalanche Kovalenko

If you let the Colorado Avalanche start rolling, you’re in trouble, and right now, the Winnipeg Jets don’t seem to have an answer for them.

The Avalanche have the Jets on the brink of elimination, and if you ask me, they could have very easily swept this series. If not for Georgiev having a rough go of it in Game One, this series could be over. Georgiev has rebounded, but Connor Hellebuyck has not. Hellebuyck spent the third period on the bench, as the Avalanche chased him from the game.

Jared Bednar made a gutsy call putting Nikolai Kovalenko into his first NHL game with zero practice time, but he was happy with what he saw. Kovalenko was fantastic after the game. English is clearly not his first language, but he was happy to oblige with an interview and gave a memorable quote.

Watch Kovalenko’s first NHL interview, and read what Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar had to say, as well as what a few other Avalanche players had to say about the game.

Nikolai Kovalenko

Kovalenko on his NHL and Avalanche debut:

“It’s a crazy moment for me. It’s a big arena, more fun. It’s incredible.”

Kovalenko on if he minded being thrown right into the playoffs:

“Yeah, I like. Why not? It’s a great experience for me. It’s first time jumping in the playoffs.”

Kovalenko on the experience overall:

“Obviously, it’s so quickly. It’s so fast. Everybody’s so big, physical guys. I tried hits, but they not falling, didn’t falling, I just try. I would like to (say) thank you for everybody, because everybody help me, support. Coach told me it’s still a game. It’s crazy.”

Jared Bednar on how his Avalanche played:

“Listen, we played a good game against the Jets early in the season and then we were kind of like a no-show for the last two (games). Give them credit. They played well in both of those games. We didn’t really show up to play, for whatever reason. The guys are fully committed to playing the right way, playing hard, and competing hard throughout our lineup. That’s the difference for us.”

Bednar on the series so far:

“I’ve really liked all four games from our group, though. We made some mistakes in game one. We made less in game two. We made less in game three. We probably made less here tonight on the defensive side of things. But our compete level and the intensity that we’re playing with, the speed and pace we’re playing with, the commitment that the team has playing with, has been great in all four games. Sometimes you get the result and sometimes you don’t. It’s a game of mistakes. Sometimes you can cover them up and sometimes you can’t. We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing. But the last one is always the toughest one to get. So, we’ll have to be better.”

Bednar on the decision to play Kovalenko and an update on Kiviranta:

“Kovalenko coming off a really strong game the other night in the American League. He’s had time to go through systems there. They play the same way we do. He’s had time to absorb that, get some coaching, go through practice time, game time (and) game reps. He’s played important games, right? KHL playoffs and now he’s in the playoffs in the American League. We’ve liked what we’ve seen. We would have liked to get a look at him in the regular season. But he came over injured, right? He got hurt in the last game. … He plays the right side and is a left shot. He’s a competitive guy. That’s why we called him up. We feel like he’s a good option to be able to step up and help, and he did. I liked his minutes. He didn’t play a lot, but he was responsible and took care of the puck. He has a physicality to his game. He’s not scared of the moment. He’s excited to be here. I thought it was good kind of replacement for (Kiviranta), who is day-to-day right now with a lower-body injury.”

Bednar on how Nichushkin is doing off the ice:

“He’s doing great. He really is. So that’s number one you want guys to be in good mental health and taking care of themselves and, and he’s doing that. To be fair, he was playing really well when he wasn’t in great mental health. But I just think long term sustainability that you want your guys feeling great and at ease away from the rink and and you want them to be having fun when they’re coming to the rink and they’ll be more productive and he’s certainly doing that. But he’s doing really well.”

Bednar on Lehkonen and Nichushkin:

On Lehky: “That’s an easy one. That’s no. He does not. I mean if you look, if you really watch video and dissect video and look at how many plays Lehky makes on any given night on the offensive side, on the defensive side, he doesn’t get anywhere near enough credit for what he does for our team. He’s so valuable to our team in every aspect power play, penalty kill, five on five, down goals up goal, scores big goals. I mean, this guy’s a relentless worker, this guy’s a warrior. So I think like super underrated.”

On Val: “He really does the same thing. You know. He’s available for you and rock solid in almost every area of the game as a 200 foot player. Players like that. I mean, you can’t even describe what they bring to the team because it’s like competitive, hard working skill that they play with. They can play with anybody. You can move them around the lineup and when you need something done, you need the job done, you can count on those two guys.”

Cale Makar on what Nichushkin means to the Avalanche:

“He’s been awesome for us. Obviously he’s a train driving that front end right now. Whether it’s being in front of the net or just being in the corners, especially for us as a D-corps, we want to reward guys who are going to the net. Trying to get pucks there for them, or put it in their hands so they can make plays. That line right now and Val, he’s playing really well. Just trying to reward those guys.”

Makar on his similar experience to what Kovalenko went through with debut in the playoffs:

“I’m not filling him about my experience. For me, it just kind of fun to experience the moment and just take it all in yourself. I don’t think you need guys telling you what to do. For him, it was awesome. I felt like he did some good things tonight and hopefully he’ll be around more. We’ll see. At the end of the day, I felt like he had a really good first game. It’s tough to come into the playoffs and do that. I thought that line played well.”

Makar talking about his goal:

“Not necessarily. You’re not thinking about that in your head. In that instance, like I touched on, I think our forwards pushed back their ‘D’ so much. I think my first option I was looking at was kicking it out to Mikko on my right and then once I saw that D backed off quite a bit, I just tried to throw it to the net. I wanted to get it far side and hopefully there would at least be a rebound or something like that.”

Trenin on Nichushkin’s mindset:

“He’s way focused right now. … Every shift. Everything outside hockey doesn’t matter. He’s just all focused on hockey right now. … We’ll always support him. We’re always there if he needs us. We’re proud of him, the way he bounced back.”

Trenin on Kovalenko’s debut:

“I think he was very good. Solid. A couple of good hits and a couple of good defensive plays. A smart player overall. Just good to root for him. I can’t imagine how hard it is to jump right into the playoffs. … He definitely looks mentally strong. He didn’t panic.”

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