That’s what happened on Tuesday when the 27-year-old rear guard was claimed on waivers by the Colorado Avalanche.
“It was a unique one, to say the least. I was actually at the airport with my bags checked onto a flight—before the 12 o’clock deadline—just in case,” Bodnarchuk said of the adventure. “I was going to join the team for a game in Milwaukee, but I found out before 12 that I might be going somewhere. I didn’t know which team. So I had to drag my bags off the plane and get back to the concourse and wait for the call. It was definitely a unique situation and a neat experience.”
Bodnarchuk's agent gave him a ring and said sit tight, and after that it was on to Denver with a pit stop in Columbus.
“Travel was pretty easy. It was a smooth transition,” he said. “I had a couple hours in Columbus to kind of pack up my stuff at the apartment there and get everything I needed together, and I got on a flight here. I got in around dinner time here. It was pretty easy, travel-wise. The time change definitely helps too.”
The Drumheller, Alberta, native played in 16 games with Columbus this season after spending the entire previous campaign with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. For him, the biggest challenge of joining a new team in the middle of a year is familiarizing himself with any changes in the requirements of his job.
“With a quick turnover like this to a new squad, I’m trying to not overthink anything. Kind of just go about my usual routine,” Bodnarchuk said. “I talked with the coaching staff about their systems, and I think that’s going to be the biggest focus for me; just playing within the systems, especially early on, not trying to do to much. Keep it simple, be predictable for the guys on the ice and get my feet under me.”
He’ll have a favorable pairing for his first game in an Avs sweater, as head coach Patrick Roy said that Bodnarchuk will be skating alongside veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin while the remaining combinations of Tyson Barrie and Nick Holden and Nate Guenin and Zach Redmond stay the same.
“I’ll put him with Beauch and we’ll see,” Roy said following Wednesday’s morning skate. “We’ll try that tonight and see how it goes. Tyson and Nick have been playing really well together, and Nate Guenin and Zach Redmond are playing well together. We’ll try that.
“Playing with Beauch, I think that’s going to help him a lot too. He’s going to talk to him and make him comfortable. We’ll go from there and we’ll see.”
Roy admitted that the plan for now, just as it typically is with new players, is to take in their abilities free from judgement.
“I have no expectations. I just want him to come and play hard for us,” he said. “We’re all curious to see what he’s going to bring to our team.”
For those that haven’t had a look at what Bodnarchuk brings to the table, the new defenseman summed up his abilities: “I’d say skating is definitely my biggest asset. I’m not the biggest guy on the ice. People will see that pretty quickly, but I compete. I’m physical. I play bigger than my size, I’d like to think, but I definitely [bring] speed from the back end.”
SHUTTING DOWN ST. LOUIS
The Avs were heavily outshot by the Blues in the last meeting between the two clubs on Dec. 13 in St. Louis, which is something Colorado hopes to avoid tonight at Pepsi Center.
|Nate Guenin |
“We’d probably like to give up fewer shots than we did in St. Louis,” Guenin said, crediting netminder Semyon Varlamov for a valiant effort in the 3-1 win. “Varly stood on his head, and he stole that game for us. But we thought we had a good game against L.A., a good team game. Thought our forwards did a good job of preventing odd-man rushes; we had a high guy a lot. We just want to play really, really hard, and we want to play well in front of our fans here at home.”
Playing well in Denver has been the focus for the Avalanche for a while, and that starts with limiting shots on goal, as Guenin said. His strategy for achieving that is simple and effective.
“Play with the puck in the offensive zone,” he said of one of tonight’s objectives. “That’s one of the points that we made the other day. More offensive-zone time obviously is going to take away from them having the puck in our end. So if we can throw pucks at the net—we have some skilled forwards—and battle around the net and get second chances, it will prevent the puck from coming down in our end.”
One Blues player that the defense is looking to keep quiet is Russian forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who is clearly a major offensive threat with a team-high 23 goals and 41 points under his belt.
“You can’t give him much room. When he gets the puck, before he even gets the puck you have to have tight gaps on him, good sticks,” Guenin said of the shut-down strategy for Tarasenko specifically. “He has that quick release. He can change the angle and let it rip from anywhere. Most of the time if our goalies see the puck, they’re going to stop it, so [we’ll] just let them see as many pucks as we can.”
POWER PLAY POWERING UP
Once an area of frustration for the Avalanche, man-advantage situations have now become another weapon in Colorado’s arsenal.
|Gabriel Landeskog |
With three power-play tallies on five attempts in Monday’s win over the Los Angeles Kings, the Avs improved to 11-for-24 (45.8 percent) with the extra skater over the last seven games. The newfound success has helped the Avalanche rise from 23rd in the NHL’s power-play rankings all the way up to sixth during this stretch.
Part of the reason for the turnaround has been a shift in mentality when at an advantage.
“Any successful power play needs to have a shooting mentality. I think that’s something that’s important, especially for our power play,” said Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog. “We have [Erik Johnson] and Beauch and Tyse and [Jarome Iginla]; they’re all good shooters. So we start putting pucks at the net and with some traffic. I think that’s something that’s going to help any power-play unit.”
Once the goals started coming, everyone on the special-teams units began to relax, which is paramount in continuing to score. On top of that, staying focused on shooting has been key.
“Trying not to overwork things and trying not to over-pass certain situations, just kind of have that shooting mentality,” Landeskog said of what works. “Usually off of shots, there’s going to be rebounds. There’s going to be scrambles in front of the net and then you can loosen up the penalty-killing unit.”
Fans often get frustrated at watching players move the puck around the zone during a power play, but Landeskog said that keeping the biscuit in motion is precisely what creates a scoring chance.
“I think movement is important. Making sure that you have a couple guys that interchange positions as well as the puck needs to be moving the whole time. Not stick handling too much, not slowing down too much; you’ve got to be moving, and then all of the sudden seams will be opening up. You can get some cross ice passes and that will open everything up.”
DUTCHY THE ALL-STAR
Matt Duchene was named to his second NHL All-Star Game on Wednesday, the league announced. He leads the Avs in
|Matt Duchene |
points (33-tied), goals (18), power-play tallies (six), faceoff percentage (56.1), takeaways (26) and shooting percentage (16.7) for players with 50 or more shots. He has also skated in all 40 of the club’s games this season.
“I’m very happy for Dutchy,” Roy said. “It’s a nice honor for him, and obviously he’s scored a lot of goals for us this year.”
With the festivities being held in Nashville this season, the 24-year-old fan of country music is predictably excited to be heading off to participate in the highly-anticipated event.
“I love that town. It’s a lot of fun,” Duchene said of Nashville. “I’ve made trips there after the season with some friends, and I love listening to country music. The live music there is so great. There’s so many talented musicians, so it’s definitely a special place for me, and it’s pretty cool to be able to go do that.”
Read more about Duchene’s thoughts on being named here.