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.

Adrian Dater
Author

Adrian Dater, was born in Vermont and lived as a tot in New York City before living most of his first 25 years in New Hampshire. Education:  Went to Keene State College and received a degree in journalism in 1988. I wrote sports for the college paper, called "The Equinox." Career: After a two-year stint out of college working as a proofreader and part--time sports writer for The Concord Monitor (N.H)., I moved to Denver in May of 1991, with no job, no connections and no car, but a lot of hope. After doing some odd jobs (including working as a bill collector for a trash company), I found some odd writing jobs for local periodicals and then latched on with The Denver Post in December of 1991 as a score-taker for the high-school sports department. That led to more writing jobs, such as covering DU hockey, lots of high-school coverage and various minor-pro sports. In March of 1995, I got a scoop that would change my life: I broke the story of the Quebec Nordiques moving to Denver to become the Avalanche, and for the next 19 years I covered the team every day. In 2015, I became the lead NHL national columnist with Bleacher Report, where I worked until 2017 before joining BSN Denver. I have also been a main hockey writer with Sports Illustrated, The Hockey News, The Sporting News, Hockey Digest, Versus.com and have written seven books on sports, including the 2006 best-selling "Blood Feud", a book about the famous Avs-Red Wings rivalry. Most memorable sports moment: As a fan, when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. Also, when the Celtics beat the Lakers in the 1984 NBA Finals. The finest sports book I’ve ever read: It would probably be a book called "Game Misconduct", by Russ Conway. It's the story of how a small-town sports reporter (Conway) in Massachusetts exposed the corruption and brought down one of the most powerful figures in the NHL at the time, Alan Eagleson. The book is a primer on how to report and investigate powerful entities. One sports movie that I can’t live without: I loved "Rocky III", and I loved a 1977 basketball movie starring Robby Benson called "One on One." And, of course, "Slap Shot." Most memorable experience as a reporter: I've gotten to interview some of my boyhood heroes, including Larry Bird, Fred Lynn and Luis Tiant. But probably the most memorable of them all was writing the story of Ray Bourque's one and only Stanley Cup in his 22 years, his final game as a pro with the Avs in 2001. The sport that started it all: As a guy who eventually grew to become 6-foot-6, I could hoop it up some. I was the starting center on my high-school team that made the N.H. state semifinals in 1983. While I never played competitive hockey, I played a lot on the many frozen ponds of New Hampshire and had a pretty good slap shot.