Avalanche make changes in search of offensive spark

When Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar addressed the media at the beginning of the week at the team’s practice facility, he said that the team was considering a call-up to try and get an offensive spark when they take on the Buffalo Sabres tonight at 7:00 MST at Pepsi Center. With captain Gabe Landeskog, who is serving the final game of his four game suspension tonight, out of the lineup, the Avalanche have struggled to generate much during the first four games of a five-game homestand.

Enter Rocco Grimaldi.

Standing at just 5-foot-6, Grimaldi is an electric offensive player with tons of raw skill. He has been a top-flight AHLer, and fringe NHLer for most of his career. While his size makes him something of a defensive liability, and is the primary reason he can’t seem to stick long term in the NHL, the Avalanche are purely looking for him to help get something going in the offensive zone for one night and, most likely, one night only.

“WIth this job, nothing is for sure,” Grimaldi told BSN Denver. “Usually, when I get called up I just want to come and play the best that I can, work hard. I’m a guy that hunts the puck and is go go go all the time, so I just have to bring energy and speed and you know, hopefully the rest will take care of itself.”

Grimaldi is expected to skate on a line with Sven Andrighetto and Colin Wilson (who will be skating in his first game back from injury) to start the night. Bednar said he is expecting the line to have a nice mix of creativity when on the attack, and responsibility in their own end.

“Rocco has been playing well. He came up here, and gave us a spark last time, he found a way to produce in a few games there, he was tenacious on pucks, I mean he works hard you know,” Bednar said following morning skate. “Playing with a guy like Andrighetto they can make plays, and then you’ve got a real responsible guy in Wilson coming back in the lineup, and he’s hungry”.

Grimaldi is coming off of a good week in the AHL, he picked up a game-winning overtime goal to help the Rampage stop a bit of a skid. He will be replacing Dominic Toninato in Colorado’s lineup, who was sent back to San Antonio on Monday.

The Avalanche wrap up the homestand tonight before heading out on a four-game east coast road trip. In addition to Grimaldi coming into the lineup, the Avs will make a few other changes for their game against Ryan O’Reilly and the Buffalo Sabres.

Duncan Siemens will get back into NHL action as he takes Mark Barberio’s place on the blue line. Nail Yakupov will get a shot to log some big minutes, and be a trigger man, playing along side Alexander Kerfoot and Tyson Jost. Gabriel Bourque will be Colorado’s other scratch.

Projected lines:

Compher - MacKinnon - Rantanen

Kerfoot - Jost - Yakupov

Comeau - Soderberg - Nieto

Andrighetto - Wilson - Grimaldi

Girard - Johnson

Lindhom - Barrie

Zadorov - Siemens


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