WASHINGTON, D.C. – The question got about this far out of my mouth.
Me, to Nikita Zadorov: “So, Z, do you think the trade deadline could put some…
Zadorov, to me, cutting me off: “I don’t even want to talk about it. I like the group. I don’t want anyone to be gone. I don’t want to have anyone else in here.”
Me, to Z: “You don’t want to be gone, do you?”
Z, to me: “No. Not a chance. We’re all happy here and we want to keep the group. If we can just play well, no one’s gonna be gone, so that’s the mindset.”
Trade rumors are the slime that creeps ever-so-stealthily into losing team dressing rooms this time of year. Zadorov has seen his name in some trade rumors, and for a while some were even wondering if he wanted to be part of the Avs’ longer-term future, after some tough moments earlier in the season when he was a healthy scratch for a game.
But Big Z has gotten a lot of quality ice time of late, and he’s been one of the Avs’ best players in his miserable losing stretch, one that has dropped the Avs out of the top eight in the Western Conference.
He’ll no doubt get a lot of playing time tonight, when the Avs play the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.
“We have a lot of great players in here, they all have skill. We just have to believe in ourself. Go out there, score the goals, win the game. That has to be our mindset for tonight,” Zadorov said.
So, try and win the Avs will do again, against the Caps in their barn. Won’t be easy. It’ll be Semyon Varlamov’s turn in net to try and keep the numbers down. A.J. Greer will be added to the lineup.
I talked with Sam Girard for a bit in the room, and he knows he needs to be better. After such flashes of brilliance in that first year with the Avs, it seemed at times recently that his play had plateaued.
But, starting with that game against Columbus, he’s shooting the puck more, on orders from the coaches. Jared Bednar said this morning that when Girard is aggressive offensively, he thinks it helps his defensive game more too.
“I definitely know I can be better, and I need to keep putting pucks on net,” Girard said.