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Colorado Constructs All-Rookie Line

Recently-recalled Tyson Jost joins roommates J.T. Compher and Alexander Kerfoot

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Chemistry on a hockey line can be built both on and off the ice, and that appears to be what the Colorado Avalanche will be doing as it assembles an all-rookie trio.

NHL freshmen J.T. Compher, Tyson Jost and Alexander Kerfoot participated in even-strength drills with one another during the Avs' practice on Monday at Family Sports Center, and the three forwards could play on the same line when Colorado takes on the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday night.

Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar didn't outright say that the three natural centers would play together in the club's second contest of a five-game homestand, but that it would be very likely if the current projected game roster continues to trend in its present direction.

"It is going to depend a little bit with our lineup and what is going on with a couple guys," Bednar said of keeping Compher, Jost and Kerfoot together. "It's a good option for us, for sure."

The possible changes that Bednar speaks of are forwards Colin Wilson, who missed Monday's on-ice session with a hip/groin injury, and Gabriel Landeskog, who was suspended four games on Monday afternoon for an illegal cross check. Landeskog and general manager Joe Sakic had a phone hearing with the league earlier in the day to discuss a high cross check that the Colorado captain delivered on the Calgary Flames' Matthew Tkachuk in Saturday's game.

A ruling on Landeskog had yet to be announced by the NHL at the time of Bednar's post-practice media availability.

"I don't know," Bednar said when asked if that was the kind of play that is deserving of a suspension. "If you look at it, it could go either way. It wasn't intentional, so sometimes you get a break on that."

Video: Coach Jared Bednar after practice

Landeskog practiced with Gabriel Bourque, Dominic Toninato and Nail Yakupov on Monday, while Sven Andrighetto took his spot on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.

Andrighetto began the season with MacKinnon and Rantanen before Landeskog was inserted into that left-wing role for the Oct. 28 contest versus the Chicago Blackhawks and had been there ever since.

"We put Andrighetto on that line in case something happens, then they have a day or two of practice together," Bednar said of his reasoning.

Colorado has had success with its top forward group, with Landeskog, MacKinnon and Rantanen totaling 18 goals and 45 points in their 12 contests together.

The Avalanche's rookie combination of Compher, Jost and Kerfoot may not have as much firepower, but it could have some immediate success due to their chemistry at and away from the rink. The three rookies are living together in the Denver area, along with defenseman Chris Bigras.

"We're young. We're fast. We all think the game really well," Jost said of the possible line combination. "It's fun to play with players like that that think the game. We snapped the puck pretty well today, and we all live together so we have some roomie chem going on."

Video: Tyson Jost returns to Avs practice

Will the off-ice chemistry of playing ping pong with (and against) one another and making dinners together help in-game? It might.

"We hang out a lot together off the ice," Jost said. "We're together all the time at home. We're doing stuff together, we're playing ping pong. It's good. We're going to have a lot of fun playing together, and I know we're excited for sure."

Said Kerfoot of the new line: "It is hard to say that you have chemistry after one practice, but it is fun to play with them. They're good hockey players. Obviously, when you're playing with good hockey players, guys who think the same as you, it is easier to play together. Those guys are just smart hockey players and do the right thing with the puck, and they can make plays. It is easy to play with them."

Kerfoot and Compher have been playing together recently with Wilson, and the two rookies have previous experience with Jost during this year's training camp and rookie tournament in San Jose.

"I'm playing with two really gifted offensive players. Josty is really good down low, especially protecting the puck and holding onto it," Compher said. "They both have really good vision. For me, I'm a little bit more of a shooter sometimes. They're able to find me in spots that I can get scoring chances, for sure."

Video: Compher talks after practice

Monday's practice was Jost's first since he was recalled on Sunday evening after spending the last 10 days with the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League. He was sent to the AHL on Nov. 16 to get some playing time after missing eight games and nearly a month with a lower-body injury suffered on Oct. 19 versus the St. Louis Blues.

Jost had a goal and an assist in five games with the Rampage.

"It was nice to get my confidence," Jost said of his short stint with San Antonio. "I might not have put up the numbers that I wanted to, but when I look back at things, it wasn't like I wasn't getting my chances. I was getting seven shots a game and all my opportunities earned, I was making things happen. I really thought the last two games I was really dominating and getting back to my game and using my down-low speed and stuff like that and making things happen."

He has only played six contests with the Avs this season after also missing time in October with a leg injury.

Bednar said it was good for the 19-year-old to play in key situations in the AHL to help ease him back into game action instead of him having a lesser role with the Avalanche.

"I think you throw him in our lineup, he probably doesn't get the ice time that he normally gets," Bednar said. "Things would be happening fast for him after missing a month. A lot of that time was spent not skating. To go down there and have a little bit more time and space and get his confidence and get his puck touches and play some big minutes, good minutes for that team, helps his game along. Now he comes up, feels confident, has a leg underneath him."

Video: Kerfoot on playing with Jost and Compher

The addition of Jost onto that line makes it so that all three young players can play center. Does it matter who actually plays that position? Not really, according to the three forwards and Bednar.

If anything, it might be a benefit as each skater knows what to do when following the play back into the Avs zone.

"You have three guys that are used to playing low and center all the time," Bednar said. "Any particular one of those guys get in the zone first, tracks back and helps you close things up quicker because you have a natural centerman down there that knows what he's doing."

"I think the way we play the system, anyone can play in the middle," said Compher. "We feel comfortable if any of us three go back and playing center in the D-zone. It helps to have guys that can take faceoffs on the same line as well. It's a good mix."

INJURY UPDATE

Semyon Varlamov is "good to go," according to Bednar, after the Avalanche goaltender missed the past three games with an illness. It is expected that Varlamov plays in Wednesday's contest versus the Jets.

Jonathan Bernier started the past four games in net for Colorado as Varlamov got sick following the team's contest at the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 19--the first of Bernier's stretch of contests. Andrew Hammond was the backup for the outings that Varlamov had missed, but he was reassigned to his AHL team, the Belleville Senators, on Sunday.

Defenseman Anton Lindholm continues to take reps with the team during practice, wearing a helmet visor and mouth shield after breaking his jaw on Nov. 4 in the Avalanche's contest at the Philadelphia Flyers. Bednar said Lindholm was going to visit the team doctor in the afternoon to see if he would be cleared for the next step in his recovery.

Blueliner Patrik Nemeth (lower body) and forward Vladislav Kamenev (broken arm) joined Wilson (hip/groin) as the only skaters that didn't participate in practice.

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