NEWARK, N.J. – Message, received.
Nikita Zadorov did not say that in so many words, but the language his 6-foot-6 body gave off Friday afternoon at his stall in the Colorado Avalanche’s practice locker room said it for him. Chastened, humbled, maybe even a bit annoyed and embarrassed, Zadorov talked of being a healthy scratch for the team’s season opener Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
“Obviously, it’s no fun, for any player, when you’re a healthy scratch,” Zadorov said. “But I’m playing tomorrow, so let’s just forget about it.”
Indeed, that was the breaking news Zadorov had for the media after practice. His one-game stint in a doghouse of sorts will be over when he makes his season debut Saturday against the New Jersey Devils here. After missing several days because of a contract impasse and immigration paperwork following his signing a two-year, $4.3 million deal, coach Jared Bednar made the somewhat surprising decision to sit him opening night, saying he “had a lot of catching up to do.”
Apparently, he’s caught up. Enough to play against New Jersey anyway.
“I think it’s important to play him tomorrow because he can help us. I think it was important to keep him out last night because we have to make sure everyone here is on the same page with this thing,” Bednar said.
The Avs and Bednar didn’t scratch Zadorov as “punishment” for holding out on them the first two days of camp over a contract. It simply came down to what Bednar had seen – or hadn’t seen – from the big Russian at practices and games.
Zadorov wouldn’t get into it when asked if he thought he’d been punished for not agreeing to terms in time for camp. It’s clear the only thing he is thinking about is Saturday against the Devils. Beyond that, though, he does have some specific goals for himself this season.
“I want to be (better) offensively,” he said. “I want to get more points, more goals, more assists. Being physical is (part) of my game. I got stronger over the summer, faster and everything. I’m just going to play my best game tomorrow.”
What is Bednar’s plan for the defensive pairings, given that he now has eight to choose from with the Friday recall of Anton Lindholm from San Antonio? Bednar said he’ll think it over more Friday night.
“We’ve got some tough decisions to make,” Bednar said.
More on his post-practice media session here:
- Jonathan Bernier will make his Avalanche debut in goal against the Devils. Bednar said there is nothing wrong with Semyon Varlamov, who practiced Friday. It just was part of his pre-trip planning to give Bernier the start Saturday.
- There were no changes to the forward lines at practice. The team held a fairly short practice, probably because of an afternoon game tomorrow. Zadorov was paired mostly with countryman Andrei Mironov at practice.
- The Devils will unveil what they say is the world’s largest scoreboard tomorrow. More on that here.
- Here’s how the “enemy” media sized up the Avs’ win last night over the Rangers.
- What does Bednar think of former DU and Avs draftee Will Butcher making his NHL debut against him tomorrow? Nothing. “I don’t know Will Butcher,” he said.
- Bednar had about a 10-15 talk with Nathan MacKinnon on the ice after the main practicing was over. The gist? Basically, he just talked about making better decisions with the puck, especially in his own end, and trying to spend more time at the other end.