Vladislav Kamenev has had to wait and stay at the ready this season to get his opportunity in the Colorado Avalanche lineup.
Now 11 games and four weeks into the 2019-20 campaign, the Avs forward will get his chance to showcase his abilities after a rash of injuries has hit the club over the last 10 days.
Already minus Mikko Rantanen (week-to-week) for the past two outings with a lower-body injury, Colorado learned on Tuesday that it will also be without Gabriel Landeskog indefinitely as the team captain has been dealing with his own lower-body ailment. The news of Landeskog's absence came two hours before Colin Wilson left practice early with a "tweak" to his lower body and won't be available for Colorado's contest against the Florida Panthers.
Enter Kamenev, and the Orsk, Russia, native is anxious to prove his worth in a game setting.
"For sure it's bad when guys get injured, but I'm happy that I get a chance to play finally," said Kamenev, who is expected to make his season debut tonight. "I think I'm ready for that."
Kamenev has dealt with his own bout of adversity over the previous two seasons after being acquired from the Nashville Predators in a three-team trade that also involved the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 5, 2017.
His Avs debut came on Nov. 16, 2017 and was cut short after breaking his arm 4:06 into the game against the Washington Capitals, limiting him to only two more contests that season. The 2018-19 campaign began much better for Kamenev as he skated in 23 contests in the first two-plus months of the season--recording his first NHL points with two goals and three assists--but his year was once again interrupted after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury on Dec. 8 at the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"I think it's bad luck," Kamenev told ColoradoAvalanche.com on Sept. 25. "Two years in a row, but I've forgotten about that and am just keep going."
Video: Vladislav Kamenev on being back in the lineup
This season, he has had to be patient as Colorado possesses a deep forward crop and presently has eight players that can play center, a position Kamenev has skated in his entire life.
"Lots of tough luck for Kammy over the last couple of years with the injuries. We get him from Nashville, we're excited about him, he gets hurt right away and we all know the story," said head coach Jared Bednar after today's morning skate. "He's missed more time than he's played, and missing large stretches like that, it takes a while for you to get back into condition. Unfortunate circumstances, but he had the summer to train, had a decent training camp, played some good (preseason) games--had a real good game in Vegas.
"What I like about him now is that he's grown in his practice habits and his intensity and the way we has practiced over the course of the regular season. He hasn't had that opportunity to go in yet, and he should be excited for it. To be honest with you I'm excited to see him and see what he can do."
Kamenev is expected to play in a center spot against Florida, as he practiced in that position next to fellow countryman Valeri Nichushkin and Colin Wilson on Tuesday before Wilson got hurt.
Video: Bednar talks with the media before hosting Florida
Another positive that can come out of injuries is the opportunities that are available to players on special teams, and Kamenev is one of those who will be tasked with filling the void in those areas.
Kamenev has mostly practiced with the penalty-kill group this year, but Bednar noted that the forward's skillset works well on the power play, especially with three of the Avs' regulars on those units presently out of the lineup.
"There is one area of Kamenev's game that I liked last year quite a bit, sort of a strength of his game in the past, and that has been his ability to play the power play," Bednar said on Tuesday. "He's been working on the penalty kill, I've talked to him about what I liked about his practice habits this year, especially once we got into the regular season."
Through all the injuries, rehab, training and then waiting, Kamenev has tried to stay physically and mentally ready for when his name would be called upon to help the Avalanche.
Now's his chance.
"It's been hard for me, for sure," Kamenev said. "I haven't played since (preseason games in) training camp, and the regular season, it's been 10 months since my last game. I was practicing working hard and finally get my chance to play."
MEGNA ALSO SET FOR DEBUT
Forward Jayson Megna is also expected to play his first game of the season for the Avalanche after being recalled from the Colorado Eagles on Tuesday following Colin Wilson's injury.
"He was awesome in training camp. Start to finish from day one, every game he made an impact, whether it was the penalty kill or power play. He was putting goals in the back of the net," head coach Jared Bednar said of Megna. "How close was he (to making the opening-night roster)? He was the last guy basically from the forward group."
If Megna plays, it will be his first game with Colorado after previously appearing in 113 contests with the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. His last NHL game was with the Canucks on Oct. 30, 2017 versus the Dallas Stars.
"It's exciting to be back and get a shot to play here," Megna said to ColoradoAvalanche.com. "My mindset is try and keep the momentum that I had in training camp and the start of the season with me and play to my strengths and kind of just use my speed and skating out there."
Coincidentally, Megna has roots in Florida Panthers' territory as he was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, before moving to the Chicago area with his parents as a kid.
NEED TO KNOW
- With Gabriel Landeskog's injury, the Avalanche can add another alternate captain to the team for this evening's contest, and head coach Jared Bednar said Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will be the player that will wear the third 'A' letter against Florida.
- Cale Makar turned 21 years old today. He has 10 points this season, one behind the John-Michael Liles (March 2004) and Kevin Shattenkirk (November 2010) for the most in a month by an Avalanche rookie defenseman (since 1995-96). Makar's nine assists are already the most-ever by a first-year blueliner in any month in Avs history.
- With an 8-2-1 record, the Avs are off to one of their best starts in franchise history. A victory tonight would mark their third-best October ever in terms of winning percentage (would be .792).
- Tonight is the second and final meeting of the season between the Avalanche and Florida Panthers, the first club Colorado will complete its seasons series with. The Avs won 5-4 in overtime in the first outing on Oct. 18 in Sunrise and are 4-0-1 against Eastern Conference teams this season.