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Colorado Avalanche Mailbag: Feb. 10

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
We’re back with the latest edition of the Colorado Avalanche Mailbag , where players respond to fan questions.

As always, your questions are in bold. If we feel the need to provide some additional commentary or clarification, that will come in italics before the player gives his answer.

Now, on to the Q&A:

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I noticed halfway through the first period of the game against Minnesota (on Feb. 3) that Matt Hunwick was playing at forward. It made me wonder, when was the last time that Matt played forward at any level? Most kids play pretty much every position when they’re really young, but I want to know if Matt played forward at all with Boston or in college.
Arnold from Aurora, Colorado

“I played in Boston a little bit. My first year I played maybe one or two games there. Back in 2008-09 I played probably around five or six games there. I actually spent some time with (Marc) Savard and (Phil) Kessel one of the games and had some success. I’ve played a little bit, but it’s been over a year at least. It’s definitely a drastic change, but most guys know the systems, whether they’re a forward or a defenseman. It’s just a matter of getting into the rhythm of things. There’s definitely more skating up front. You find yourself a little more tired when you get off the ice. It’s something that I’ve kind of gotten used to over the years.”

I’d like to pose a question to T.J. Galiardi. What has been your favorite team-related moment away from the ice this season (not in a game)? Is it visiting a certain city, eating at a great restaurant, or maybe a great/funny memory on one of the team flights? Thanks, and go Avs!
Janelle from Brighton, Michigan

T.J. had a little trouble coming up with a single good answer for this, but after a few minutes of thinking, he gave us a funny little tidbit about teammate Brandon Yip. It might not be his “favorite” moment of the season away from the rink, but it was a pretty memorable and comical one for him.

“That’s a tough one. Right before the season started a bunch of us went to Footie’s house and he has a big pool there. He has one of those basketball nets that goes into the pool, and we had a big three-point contest that kept escalating as far as what was on the line. It started with something little, like a meal at McDonald’s or somewhere like that. It just kept building up, and eventually it was a huge meal at Capital Grille. I’m pretty sure Yipper missed every single shot. He just absolutely lost it and kicked the ball so far away after he lost. He still owes me for that one. We always bet on certain things. Yipper loves to gamble, so he still owes me a meal at Sushi Den. We rate restaurants by “levels.” He owes me two mid-levels and a low-level, and I owe him Capital Grille right now. Some of the most memorable things are little battles with guys.”

Hello to Ryan O’Byrne! OB, in your mind, what exactly is the role of a “defensive defenseman” like yourself? You hear that term thrown around a lot, but what do you see as your primary responsibilities? Also, does it bother players when they are labeled a certain way, like “defensive defenseman,” “offensive defenseman,” or “defensive forward?” Does it make you want to work harder to expand the other parts of your game?
Josh from Aspen, Colorado

“A defensive defenseman has a few responsibilities. First, it’s playing a simple game. You concentrate on making that good, solid first pass to the forwards. Some guys are physical, some aren’t as physical. For me, being physical is a big part of my game. Being tough in front of the net, blocking shots and taking care of the penalty kill are areas that define a defensive defenseman.

“Once you get to this level, you kind of know what your role is. I’m not going to be Bobby Orr out there and put up a whole bunch of points. Maybe sometimes in lower level hockey I had more of an offensive role. But when you get to the NHL you kind of have a defined role. That’s what makes you successful in the NHL, when you know your role and stick to it.”

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For Kevin Shattenkirk: What was your experience like during the All-Star Game (the whole weekend)? Did it meet or exceed what you expected from it? Was it at all intimidating to be out there during the skills event with so many proven NHL superstars?
Kyle from Boston, Massachusetts

“I’d definitely say that it exceeded my expectations. It seemed like I was more of a spectator than a player there. As rookies, we kind of got to sit back and watch the whole thing unfold, but it wasn’t intimidating at all. All of the superstars there were great guys and they all made us feel very welcome and included us in everything.”

I have a bit of a technical question for any of the players. When your team is hanging onto a lead late in games, does your defensive strategy change? Do you focus more on stopping the other team from gaining the offensive zone in the first place, or do you try to keep things to the outside even more? Is there a focus on packing things down in front of the net? Does the team as a whole try to focus on shorter shifts? Is gap control more important?
Byron from Nashville, Tennessee

Since we already had the attention of Ryan O’Byrne, we figured he would be a good person to answer this question. Ryan holds a +6 plus/minus rating this season, which is tied with Ryan O’Reilly for the team lead.

“Well, I think when you try to change your game in the last five minutes, that’s when you get in trouble. You want to keep doing what you’re doing. Maybe you play a little more conservative and you’re not pressing as much as you would be if you’re down a goal. When it comes to pinching in the defensive zone, you usually decide to stay back. Defensively, you want to keep a good stick, obviously keep the guys to the outside and if there’s not a play there, maybe throwing the puck off the glass and outside the zone is a good play with five minutes left.”
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