CENTENNIAL, Colo.--When Anton Lindholm arrived at Family Sports Center Tuesday and took part in his first Colorado Avalanche regular-season practice, he didn't give much thought about his possible NHL debut on the horizon.
Following his hour-plus session on the ice and meeting with the coaching staff, the Swedish defenseman learned his first contest will be Wednesday night when the Avs take on the Detroit Red Wings at Pepsi Center.
"It was exciting to get the call and travel here yesterday and practice this morning. Really excited to get this opportunity," said Lindholm, who was recalled from the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey league on Monday afternoon.
The native of Skelleftea, Sweden, is in his first season of playing professional hockey in North America after being drafted by the Avalanche 144th overall in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Draft. He had played in all 59 games with the Rampage this year, registering two goals and 10 assists.
Playing the pro game was nothing new for the 22-year-old as he had previously competed in contests in the Swedish Hockey League for his hometown club, Skelleftea AIK, and played a significant role on the squad for the last two seasons. He was also a member of Team Sweden at last May's IIHF World Championship.
"Obviously, playing grown men for the last three years in Sweden has helped improve my game a lot, both physically and [mentally]," Lindholm said. "There is less times, guys are faster, stronger. I would say it's been a huge part of my development the last three years."
His biggest adjustment in the AHL was getting used to playing on a smaller ice surface, as international-sized rinks in Sweden are wider than their North American counterpart. However, even that didn't take long for him to master.
"I felt like I adapted my game more to the small rink. Value the puck the more, when to put the puck on the tape and when to just use the boards or the glass," Lindholm said. "Also, the defensive part of the game, D-zone coverage, standing closer--because the ice is so short--you have to be on the right side all the time."
Lindholm prides himself on moving the puck out of the defensive zone and being physical. Despite being limited to 30 games last season due to various injuries, the 5-foot-11, 191-pound blueliner led Skelleftea in hits with 85 and finished 12th in the entire SHL in the category.
Colorado head coach Jared Bednar wants Lindholm to play with that same edge in the NHL.
"He's improved his puck play through the course of the season, having talked to [the San Antonio] coaches and our guys that have gone down to watch him," Bednar said. "I love his character and his compete…For him, he's a guy that's played against men for a couple years now. I expect he'll play the same way, that he'll be physical. The game, it will slow down for him over time I think up here, but what is going to happen is that we just want to encourage him to play the same way and with the same fire."
He'll have a good first defensive partner to help him through the transition from the American League.
Bednar said Lindholm will play with Francois Beauchemin, an 822-game NHL veteran that also has a Stanley Cup ring.
"I think Beauch is a good pair for him. He's our most vocal defenseman, does the most talking on the ice," Bednar said. "That is good for a young guy to have another set of eyes and tell him what to do in all kinds of situation, especially on our half of the ice."
Video: Anton Lindholm on his first NHL recall
Like the Avs did two weeks ago with forward J.T. Compher, they're going to put Lindholm immediately into the fire, so to speak. Colorado will keep a close eye on his matchups on, but the young rear guard will play in all defensive situations against Detroit.
"We really liked him in training camp as well. So throwing him into it here, we don't have too many games left, so we have to make sure that we get a good look at him, see what he can do," Bednar noted. "See how he improves over the course of the season. We feel like he's ready and can handle it, so we'll play it day-by-day on his ice time and see how the games go, but we're going to put him into a regular shift and penalty kill right away."
Now that he's with the Avalanche, Lindholm understands that he has to step up his game even more as he takes the ice with and against some of the world's best skaters, shooters, puck stoppers and defenders.
"It's another level up there. You can't take one inch off out there, because you'll get beat," he said. "So being focused and being on top of my game every time."
LINEUP VERSUS DETROIT
Goaltender Calvin Pickard will get the start for Colorado on Wednesday as the club begins a home-and-home series against the Detroit Red Wings.
Pickard is coming off a 34-save outing on Monday night, where the Avalanche lost 1-0 at the Arizona Coyotes.
With Lindholm entering the lineup, Colorado now has eight defensemen on its active roster. As such, the Avs will scratch Cody Goloubef and Patrick Wiercioch against the Red Wings.
Video: Coach Bednar's post-practice press conference
After Tuesday's practice, Bednar noted that the didn't know who the scratched forward will be as it depends on the health of some of his players.
He did unveil his top two forward lines, however. Nathan MacKinnon will center a trio with Sven Andrighetto and Mikko Rantanen, while Gabriel Landeskog and Rene Bourque will be on a Matt Duchene-centered combo.
Wednesday's contest at Pepsi Center is now at 7:30 p.m. after originally being scheduled for 8 p.m. MT.