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No Pressure On Grimaldi And Siemens

The forward and defenseman will play their second games with the Avalanche

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

There is a relaxed demeanor to both Colorado Avalanche forward Rocco Grimaldi and defenseman Duncan Siemens, more than usual for players who have yet to be in Denver for even 24 hours.

Called up from the San Antonio Rampage on Monday afternoon, both players will be in the Avs' lineup this evening when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks at Pepsi Center.

With only four games left in the regular season, the late recall is a chance for them to showcase their skills at the top level of the sport before going into an offseason full of question marks. Yet, any pressure about their future doesn't appear present.

"If I go out there and do my job the way I know how, I think I can be a contributing factor to help the team win. As far as the audition stuff goes, you just have to throw that in the back of your mind," Siemens said. "I'm obviously in a unique situation, but at this time of year everybody is fighting for jobs. Everybody is being watched by everybody in the league. Every night is an audition, and I'm try to take it as a simple approach and not think about that too much."

This will be Siemens' second-ever NHL game, while for Grimaldi, it will be his 29th overall and second with the Avalanche. Grimaldi was called up for Colorado's game on Dec. 3 against the Dallas Stars.

The Anaheim, California, native played his first 27 contests in the league with the Florida Panthers, and he noted at the time of his first recall that he's tried to worry less about making the NHL and more about just playing. He still has that mindset.

"I kind of put too much pressure on myself," Grimaldi said of his past self. "I think I'm more relaxed than the one game I was up in December. I know there is no pressure, and I'm just going to go out and play my game and play with some really good players on the line tonight and help the team win."

Grimaldi has been an offensive force for the Rampage this season as he leads the club and is third in the AHL with 29 goals after 68 games. He is also tops on San Antonio in points (51), power-play goals (12) and shots (214).

It's been a strong first year with the Colorado organization for Grimaldi after being acquired in a trade last summer.

"I think it all starts with being in San Antonio and growing my game, growing my confidence," Grimaldi said. "I've been playing with good players. I've played with a lot of different guys; I've found chemistry with quite a few of them, which has been nice. I feel like it's been going well."

Head coach Jared Bednar wants to see that same type of play from the 24-year-old, who appears to be on a line tonight with Gabriel Landeskog and Tyson Jost.

"He's been a catalyst for our team's offense down there (in San Antonio)," Bednar said. "He's played most of the season with Compher, and when Comp came here, [Grimaldi] hasn't missed a beat. He is in midst of a scoring race down there. I think he has 29 goals, so he's a shooter. He makes plays. We're going to put him on a line where hopefully he can continue to do that. We have a guy in Landy who has been going to the net real hard as of late. So hopefully we can get some pucks and traffic to the net on that line."

Video: Rocco Grimaldi on his second recall

The No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Siemens' only other contest with Colorado came on the last day of the 2014-15 season, April 11 against these same Chicago Blackhawks.

While it was just one game, it gave him a look at what it takes to compete against NHL-caliber players.

"You have to put everything you have out there every shift," Siemens recalled of his debut. "A split second of forgetting to tie a guy's stick up could cost you a goal. Everything happens that much quicker up here obviously than down at the American League, but at the same time, just to play. Not to worry about anything else. If you make a mistake, you got to shrug it off. It's part of the game."

For the first time in his four pro seasons, Siemens hasn't had any setbacks with longer-term injuries. He is the only player on the Rampage to have played in all 69 games his year and has put together a respectable plus-2 rating while compiling 82 penalty minutes.

"I feel on a personal level, I've been playing fairly well," the 23-year-old from Edmonton said. "Staying healthy has been huge for my success this year. I've been able to play every game down there so far this year, which hasn't happened in years past. It's allowed me to find a rhythm and get some consistency back in my game."

Siemens will likely be paired on defense with Cody Goloubef, who will return to game action after being scratched for the last 10 games.

Video: Siemens on his 2016-2017 recall to the Avs

"Steady defender, heavy guy. Had a pretty good season down there (in the AHL), too, actually," Bednar said of Siemens. "He's going into the third pairing and going to play a defending role. Probably see some penalty-kill time as well."

Grimaldi and Siemens both enter the lineup as the Avs are a little banged up following their game on Sunday at the Minnesota Wild. Defenseman Anton Lindholm went into the boards hard in the third period, while forward Blake Comeau has a minor leg injury. Both will be out tonight, along with blueliner Fedor Tyutin.

Video: Coach Bednar's pregame press conference

Now where the two new players fit after Tuesday is yet to be known. Bednar said following morning skate it is a "game-by-game decision" for the home finale on Thursday and the last two games over the weekend.

The call-ups don't seem too concerned about it and are focusing on Chicago before worrying about Minnesota, Dallas and St. Louis.

"There is no pressure," Grimaldi said. "Just come up here and hopefully get a few games and then go back and finish the year in San Antonio. Just come up and it's kind of like a quick evaluation to show them what I can do, play the best that I can and help the team get some wins."

JOST FACES CHILDHOOD HERO

As a young player developing his skills as a teenager, Avs rookie forward Tyson Jost admired the skill and leadership that Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews displayed.

Tonight, in his third-ever NHL game, Jost will face off against Toews for the first time.

"He's someone I really looked up to the last four, five years," the 19-year-old said. "He's been one of my favorite players, and someone I've really idolized. It will be pretty special. I obviously don't want to get starstruck or anything like that. I'm sure I'm going to go hard against him; that will be in my nature if I go up against him. It will be a cool experience."

Jost followed Toew's footsteps to the NHL. Both Western Canadians played college hockey at the University of North Dakota before turning pro. The Winnipeg native, Toews, spent two years in Grand Forks before joining the Blackhawks in 2007, while the St. Albert, Alberta, native, Jost, signed his entry-level contract with the Avalanche last week following one season with the Fighting Hawks.

Video: Jost on facing Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews

Jost said he's never met Toews in person, but he has talked on the phone with him before. The rookie noted he's tried to emulate the game of the player that had already won three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals and a Conn Smythe Trophy in his first nine pro seasons.

"Just how hard he competes every shift and just his leadership on the ice; I think that is something I really admire," Jost said of Toews. "He plays a 200-foot game, gifted offensively. He plays strong in the D-zone, too. That is something I admire so much and something I try to focus in my game, too. He's a special player, and he's also a great guy off the ice."

PROJECTED LINEUP

Sven Andrighetto - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen

Matt Nieto - J.T. Compher - Matt Duchene

Gabriel Landeskog - Tyson Jost - Rocco Grimaldi

Mikhail Grigorenko - Carl Soderberg - Rene Bourque

 

Mark Barberio - Erik Johnson

Francois Beauchemin - Tyson Barrie

Duncan Siemens - Cody Goloubef

 

Calvin Pickard

Jeremy Smith

 

Expected Scratches: Joe Colborne, Blake Comeau, Anton Lindholm, John Mitchell, Fedor Tyutin, Patrick Wiercioch

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