Rookie forward A.J. Greer is back with the Colorado Avalanche ahead of the club's contest against the Winnipeg Jets, its first in 2018.
Colorado recalled the Joliette, Quebec, native on Monday afternoon from the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League and he will play tonight in a top-six role versus the Jets.
"I think I have high expectations for him," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. "He has been up here on numerous occasions, and we like what he has done over short periods of time. I think he gives us a little physical presence, a little sand paper up there, but he has the skill to be able to make plays and support those guys. He is a guy who goes to the net hard in the American League, he has done it here, like I said, for short sprints. Big, physical body so we look for him to be a positive contributor on that line."
Greer had a stint with Colorado earlier this season, and he recorded one assist and 18 penalty minutes in six games played during that time. In 2016-17, he had one assist in five games over the course of two stints with the club. In San Antonio this campaign, the left wing has registered 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 16 outings.
"For me, it is just to be physical. But I think my last stint with the Avs I didn't really showcase my offensive abilities enough," said Greer. "I didn't have the confidence that I wanted to. So, I think for me it's just to have that confidence with the puck and play my game and not be nervous and have fun out there."
Video: A.J. Greer on showcasing his talent
Greer will be replacing Sven Andrighetto on a line with Alexander Kerfoot and Nail Yakupov. Andrighetto is day to day after being injured on Sunday in Colorado's game versus the New York Islanders.
"[I want to] do what they tell me to do and do the things that they drafted me and why they signed me [to do]," said Greer. "Which is bring some physical play, but also offensive abilities. I know I can put the puck in the net. I know I can play offensive and also be responsible defensively, so just playing an all-around solid game."
Playing a full-60 minutes will be one of the keys for the Avalanche against the Jets who are leading the Central Division with 52 points and a plus-24 goal differential.
"We certainly like to play an offensive style of game, and we want to play that way," Bednar said. "We want to be fast and aggressive and pressure the puck in all three zones. We are doing a better job executing so that's leading to better offense.
"It's important though to make sure the defending details are tight. We don't want to get in a track meet. All the best teams find a way to be dangerous offensively and then still lock it down defensively, much like the Jets. They are one of the highest scoring teams in the league. From what I have seen from them, they are rock solid defensively. They are getting good goaltending, they are deep throughout their lineup."
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar after morning skate
The Avalanche finished December 7-3-1 after starting the month 0-4-0 and will look to continue its recent success versus Winnipeg.
Colorado's most recent outing ended with a 6-1 victory over the New York Islanders on New Year's Eve.
"We played a complete 60 minutes, and sometimes we have lapses, but we didn't against the Islanders," said Nathan MacKinnon. "We outplayed them for the full game and played to our strengths and focused on ourselves, and that's when we are at our best.
"We don't want to get complacent, but I think you need to be a little bit satisfied when you have success and enjoy it. We did close out the month with a pretty solid record and we are happy with that, but we are not good enough to get comfortable, that's for sure. We are in the mix, we are only a couple points out, but it's going to be a big test for us tonight."
The Avalanche is three points out of a playoff spot with a few games in hand on most of the teams ahead of the club in the standings.
Video: Nathan MacKinnon the Avs' recent play
SPECIAL TEAMS CHALLENGE
Colorado enters tonight's contest with a streak of 33 consecutive penalty kills, the longest streak in a single season since 1998-99 when the Avs had 35 straight.
The penalty-kill unit has not allowed a power-play goal in the club's last 11 games, which is the longest stretch in Avalanche history. It will look to continue that tonight against the Jets, who have the fourth-best power play in the league.
"It's a challenge not just for MacKinnon's line tonight or Soderberg's line to check," said Bednar. "We need all four lines to be able to check and that we are moving our legs and checking with our legs, because their power play is dangerous. If you reach in and taking stick infractions, they will make you pay for it on the power play."