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Lindholm Seeing More Playing Time

The rookie defenseman skated in top-paring minutes the last two games

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Adjusting to the play and style of NHL games is an ongoing process for veterans and rookies alike. There is always something to learn and something to work on as the players try to master their craft. 

Rookie defenseman Anton Lindholm is deep in that development process as he prepares for his 20th career NHL game on Thursday, but he has received some extra help lately to aid in his transition to the league.

The 22-year-old has been playing with veteran rear guard Erik Johnson for the last two contests, which has allowed him to find his game in the fast-paced NHL. 

"Playing with a guy like E.J., your own comfort level and your trust to your D-partner can't get much higher than playing with a guy like that," Lindholm said. "Obviously, I can play my game and feel comfortable that if I mess up or if I fail to do anything, I know E.J. is there for support." 

The Skelleftea, Sweden, native has played on all three of the club's defensive pairings this year and has recently become one of the Avs' reliable skaters on the backend. Lindholm is still easing into the league, averaging 15:50 of ice time in his seven contests this year but has posted career highs the last two games. He played 19:24 on Friday at the Vegas Golden Knights and 20:59 on Saturday versus the Chicago Blackhawks.

Lindholm said there is always room for improvement when it comes to cleaning up different areas of his game, but that the increase in ice time is a welcomed addition for his growth as a D-man. 

"I think overall, I've tried to play the way I should play," he said. "I feel like the more minutes you get to play, the easier it is to just feel relaxed and play the game I'm supposed to play."

Video: Anton Lindholm on his recent play

Lindholm is among the members of the Avalanche's young defensive corps that has impressed head coach Jared Bednar in the early stages of the season, and it has forced the bench boss to make some tough decisions on which blueliners to scratch.

Recently, Nikita Zadorov has been one of the two rear guards that has been forced to watch. Bednar said the decision to scratch Zadorov the past two outings is strictly based on his play on the ice.

"We got a young group of D-men, and some guys are still trying to prove themselves and where exactly they shake out in our lineup and what they can do for us consistently. I would say Z falls into that category for us," Bednar said. "He's got a lot of potential, and he's been scratched based on performance. We've liked what we've seen from some other guys a little bit more consistently than we've liked from Z so far this year. The plan moving forward is keep him working, keep trying to help him get better and keep evaluating on a game-by-game basis."

Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar gives an update on his team

While Zadorov has been scratched recently, he could play Thursday when the Avalanche returns to action against the Carolina Hurricanes following a four-day break.

The only finalized decision with Bednar's lineup against Carolina is his starting goalie, with Semyon Varlamov set to guard the crease. The rest of the game roster will mostly be based on how the players perform in their three scheduled practices this week.

"We'll still make decisions on our lineup for later in the week as we go here," Bednar said. "Part of what they do in practice helps us determine who is playing too. We're not just looking at the last game and ignoring the next four days."

Some of Colorado's injured players are making improvements in their rehab, with Tyson Jost (lower body) and Colin Wilson (hip) set to start skating again sometime this week, according to Bednar.

J.T. Compher, who is out with a broken thumb, continues to skate on his own before practice and could start doing puck-handling drills by the time the Avs travel to the east coast on Friday for games against the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders.

"I think the plan for him loosely is to maybe get back and get in that playing cast that we've talked about before, so he can start doing a little bit of that (puck handling). Maybe at the end of this week," Bednar said of Compher's progress.

Gabriel Bourque is still out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.

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