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Boedker, Gelinas Set To Make Avalanche Debuts

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

ST. PAUL, Minn.—Newly acquired Colorado Avalanche forward Mikkel Boedker and defenseman Eric Gelinas will get to know their teammates on the fly tonight as they jump right into action against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

Brought in prior to the 1 p.m. MT trade deadline on Monday, Boedker and Gelinas joined the Avs in the Twin Cities later in the evening and only had Tuesday's morning skate to get adjusted to their new squad.

"It was good. I messed up a couple drills, but it comes with the territory," Boedker said of his first practice with Colorado. "I think it worked out well, and hopefully we can have a good game tonight."

This is a new experience for Boedker and Gelinas, as both players had spent their entire NHL careers with one organization. Boedker was the No. 8 overall draft pick by the Arizona Coyotes in 2008, while Gelinas was picked No. 54 overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 2009 summer selection.

Boedker had compiled 213 points (80 goals and 133 assists) in 445 career games with the Coyotes, including 39 points (13 goals and 26 assists) this year. Gelinas had six points in 34 contests this year with the Devils and has totaled 54 points (14 goals and 40 assists) in 156 NHL games.

Both are excited for a chance with a new team.

"I think it is going to be a lot of fun to try something new," Boedker said. "A lot of excitement coming here; coming to a young team that plays some real good hockey. I'm really excited about it, and hopefully I can adjust quick and help this team out."

"They were all nice to me this morning," Gelinas said of morning skate. "Good pace of practice. [It's] a little different style with meetings and stuff, so it was fun to be a part of. Really looking forward to this opportunity."

Other than the occasional charity game with fellow QMJHL alum Mikhail Grigorenko, Gelinas doesn't know anyone else on the Avs roster.

He'll quickly learn about his new teammates, especially rookie Chris Bigras, who he'll be paired with on defense this evening.

"I'll for sure get to talk to him at lunch or some time this afternoon," he said. "I'm excited. I don't know him much, so it's going to be a new partner and hopefully it's going to click right away."

Head coach Patrick Roy said he thinks Gelinas can help generate some offense from the backend by helping push the play out of the Avalanche's zone.

"He's moving the puck well, a good first pass and capable of joining the rush," Roy said. "He's got a really nice shot on the power play, and eventually he'll play on the power play as well. I think it brings depth to our defense."

Colorado has taken it slow with Bigras, not giving the 21-year-old too much responsibility early on. The club will do the same with Gelinas for the time being.

Both Gelinas and Bigras are left-handed shooters, but Bigras will play on his off side tonight in a move that is likely to give Gelinas a chance to get comfortable in his new surroundings.

"I talked to Chris yesterday, and he said he played on the right side in junior," Roy said. "He said he could adapt pretty easy on the right side, so we'll keep Gelinas on the left side."

The left wing Boedker will be inserted into a top-six role with center Nathan MacKinnon and fellow wing Gabriel Landeskog. He'll take the spot that was previously held by Alex Tanguay, who traded to Arizona along with prospects Conner Bleackley and Kyle Wood for the Danish forward.

"He's going to bring a lot of speed," Roy said of Boedker, the first player from Denmark in Avalanche history. "He's a good skater, and we feel with Nathan that it is going to be a good mix. I like our lines how they were before, and he's just replacing Tanguay on that line. That's all that is."

The amount of speed on that line is what's really intriguing.

"I hope it brings headaches. That's the objective," the bench boss said. "Certainly going to help that line; I think Nate's speed is going to be matched by Boedker. I'm very curious to see how they are going to play."

MacKinnon is well aware of the reputation of Boedker's wheels.

"He's one of the fastest skaters in the league," MacKinnon said. "I know that. I've played against him for three years now. Great shot, great hands, good vision and he's a really good player. We're excited to have him for sure."

Boedker said it will be an adjustment getting used to his linemates and the club's systems, but he's looking forward playing with two players of MacKinnon and Landeskog's caliber.

"If you work hard and talk on the ice, it will all adjust pretty quick," he said. "Obviously, I'm excited to play with those two guys. They're both real good players; fast, skilled and play hard. It's going to be a lot of fun to be able to play with those two guys."

Boedker and Gelinas said they were both a bit surprised to be traded, but they were not totally shocked. Boedker had heard rumors for weeks, while Gelinas knew New Jersey picked up a defenseman on waivers earlier in the day, signaling a possible move before the trade deadline.

The Coyotes and Devils are currently on the outside of the playoff picture, while the Avalanche is in a three-team race for two wild-card spots. The additions of Boedker and Gelinas should help the club in that chase to the Stanley Cup tournament.

"It's really exciting to come into a team that is a capable of making the playoffs and is in a playoff race," Boedker said. "Hopefully, I can come in and help and make sure that we grab ahold of that wild-card spot."

IT'S NO 'MINNY' GAME

Tonight's contest at the Xcel Energy Center is important for several reasons. Not only are the Avs looking to rebound from their 5-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series on Saturday, but they also want to put more space between them and the Wild in the standings.

Colorado is two points ahead of Minnesota for the Western Conference's second wild-card spot, but the Wild has a game in hand.

"It's huge. It's a four-point game," said Nathan MacKinnon. "If we win this, we put ourselves in an even better position. We want to pull away from them as quickly as possible and get some wins."

The Avs are 1-2-0 against the Wild this season, with the clubs meeting for a fifth and final time on March 26 in Colorado.

"Obviously it's a big game for both teams," Roy said. "We're real close in the standings, and I think it's a good opportunity for both teams to play a strong game."

Two things the Avalanche has been good at this season is games against Central Division opponents and contests on the road. Colorado is 12-5-2 against division foes and sports an 18-14-0 mark away from Pepsi Center.

The Avs have played their last nine games against clubs from the Eastern Conference or Pacific Division, and their last division contest was a 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at home on Feb. 6. Nine of Colorado's final 18 outings will be versus Central teams.

PROJECTED LINEUP

Mikkel BoedkerNathan MacKinnonGabriel Landeskog

Mikhail GrigorenkoMatt DucheneJarome Iginla

Shawn MatthiasCarl SoderbergBlake Comeau

Cody McLeod—John Mitchell—Jack Skille


Francois BeaucheminErik Johnson

Nick HoldenTyson Barrie

Eric GelinasChris Bigras


Semyon Varlamov

Calvin Pickard


Scratches: Andrew Bodnarchuk, Andreas Martinsen and Zach Redmond

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