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Grigorenko Taking Advantage Of His Opportunity

The Avalanche forward is tied for the league lead in preseason goals

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

LAS VEGAS--Each Colorado Avalanche player has had a fresh start during training camp with new head coach Jared Bednar having little to no previous experience working with the roster.

That clean slate has given the Avs a chance to showcase their skills without old stereotypes about their game playing a factor in the decision-making process.

So far, forward Mikhail Grigorenko has made the most out of his opportunity.

The native of Khabarovsk, Russia, recorded the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation on Saturday night in the Avs' preseason finale win against the Los Angeles Kings at T-Mobile Arena and has benefited from playing key minutes during the exhibition schedule.

Grigorenko was out on the ice for the opening faceoff, starting the game on a line with fellow centers Matt Duchene and Carl Soderberg and was put into the contest when the Avalanche desperately needed a goal to keep its perfect preseason intact.

"I like what I see," Bednar said of Grigorenko's play. "That's what I'm basing the ice time off of--the opportunity [for] all these guys is what I've seen from day one. I've tried to come into it with an open mind."

Video: Mikhail Grigorenko talks about his preseason

The overtime-forcing tally came after Grigorenko received a nice cross-ice pass from Duchene and released a wrist shot from the left circle that beat all-star goaltender Jonathan Quick.

"We were just working down low, battling for pucks and Dutchy made a great play through the seam," Grigorenko said. "I just tired to put it on net, and I think it got deflected a little bit and went in. It was kind of like we planned, shooting pucks and winning battles. That worked out pretty good."

Colorado used the momentum from Grigorenko's marker to quickly win the contest early in OT and head back to Denver as the only NHL team with a 6-0-0 record in the preseason.

The tally was Grigorenko's fourth in five preseason contests, which is tied for the most in the league with Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Brandon Pirri of the New York Rangers.

"It's always nice to score goals," Grigorenko said. "Even though it is only preseason…it gets my confidence level high. I'm feeling pretty good for the start of the season."

Bednar has been impressed with not only the 22-year-old's skillset, but also the way he plays the game at both ends of the rink.

"I think he has a high-hockey IQ, and he has the ability to make plays with and without the puck," Bednar said. "I just think he's a smart player, and if you give smart players opportunity, they are going to find a way to get the job done."

Grigorenko is coming off his first full NHL campaign where he registered six goals and 21 assists in 74 games, and it's not hard to imagine on the former QMJHL star improving on those numbers if he continues to play the way he has in the preseason.

"He's playing with a lot of confidence, and I think that is something important for any player, at any age or at any point in their career," said Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog of his teammate. "You definitely see it this season and this training camp. He's come in with a great work ethic, and he's been shooting the puck well and he's been making great moves…I think if he keeps working hard like he is right now and keeps shooting the puck, I think he'll do great."

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