Fresh off adding a dazzling assist in helping the Colorado Avalanche trounce the Washington Capitals last night, defenseman Sam Girard was feeling pretty good this morning after practice. The 19-year-old acquired 12 days ago from the Nashville Predators as one of the many pieces of the Matt Duchene trade enjoyed his first extended stint next to Erik Johnson on Colorado's top pairing.
"It's fun," Girard exclaimed with a smile. "When you're a player, you always want to be on the ice, you want to be there to help your team win. It's fun to see the staff believe in me and they put me in every situation, whether it's time for a goal or time to protect the zone. It's pretty fun to see."
Colorado's new top pairing played 12:16 together at even strength last night and produced a dazzling 73.91 Corsi For percentage while primarily matching up against Caps' forwards T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Ovechkin. The swift-skating Girard is having fun adjusting to his new surroundings as he's quickly become attached to Denver.
"I'm in the hotel right now," Girard explained. "I'm just waiting if I'm staying for the season or no. I like the city, everything here, the boys, the staff. That's 100% I like it, seriously."
The Avalanche head to Nashville tomorrow to take on the Predators in the first of a two-game road trip and it just so happens to be taking Girard back to play against the team that drafted him in 2016 before trading him earlier this month.
"When you're a player and you get traded and you play against your old team, it's going to be a fun day tomorrow," Girard said.
While missing out on potential playoff runs with a Nashville team loaded up for a Stanley Cup run right now is disappointing, Girard is enjoying his opportunity with the Avalanche and embracing his new path.
"It's good for my future," Girard admitted. "I'll be honest with you. Nashville has got pretty good defensemen, their top four is probably the best in the league. When my agent called me to tell me about the trade, I was very happy. To be here, I'm excited to build a young team together for the future. I'm pretty excited to have a new start here with this organization."
The Avalanche coaching staff sure seems excited, too, as he has played over 21 minutes in each of his three games for Colorado so far and has not been shy about hiding him away from difficult matchups. All of this is part of the evaluation process as Girard will hit the nine-game threshold on Saturday and the team must decide either to send him back to the QMJHL and let his entry-level contract "slide" another year or keep him and not worry about using the first year of his contract.
All indications from the organization have been they intend to keep Girard not just beyond this weekend but for the remainder of the season and let him develop in the NHL. The other question mark surrounding Girard is his potential availability to Team Canada in the upcoming World Junior Championships.
"I've been talked to about it but my goal is to stay here with the Avs and do a great job," Girard told BSN Denver. "My preference is to stay here and play with them."
As usual with this iteration of the Avalanche, we'll just have to wait and see what happens with Girard in the coming months as he seeks to answer the many questions surrounding him.
Practice News and Notes:
- Several players were given the day off today after last night's big win, including Gabe Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, and Erik Johnson.
- Head coach Jared Bednar provided injury updates on Patrik Nemeth and Anton Lindholm, who skated for the first time today, saying both are a long way out still and Nemeth is considered "week-to-week".
- Tyson Barrie wore a non-contact jersey for the second consecutive practice, although he did take contact later in the session and is considered day-to-day. It is possible he will play this weekend but his status at the moment remains unclear.
- With Vladislav Kamenev suffering a broken arm last night, the Avalanche recalled Dominic Toninato from the San Antonio Rampage and Bednar confirmed he will make his NHL debut tomorrow, slotting into Kamenev's spot in the lineup between Sven Andrighetto and Nail Yakupov.