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Zadorov Brought The Boom Against The Jets

The Avalanche defenseman's hits were a game changer

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Hockey is a sport of finesse and extreme skill, but physicality is still a big part of today's game. A big hit, a fight, a little rough stuff in the low slot after a save continues to have an impact in swinging momentum.

Nikita Zadorov was that kind of difference maker Saturday afternoon, as he delivered a couple big booms to help generate some energy for the Colorado Avalanche in its 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets at Pepsi Center.

"That is definitely the type of play that we need out of him. I thought he was outstanding tonight," head coach Jared Bednar said of Zadorov. "Not just that hit, but he had three or four big hits and [was] defensively sound, making good decisions. That is what we're hoping to see out of that player. I know he's not going to get four, five big hits every night, but he can certainly play physical like that."

The off-ice officials had Zadorov down for three hits in the game, but there were plenty of other instances where the Russian rear guard used his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame to create havoc on the ice.

"Z was a dominant force back there with moving the puck up and the big hits," said Jarome Iginla. "[The opposing players] always have to look around when he's out there. It's a big boost for the bench.

"He was feeling it today. It was fun to watch for the fans. That brings a lot of energy to our group, those big hits."

Zadorov finished with a season-high 25:18 of ice time, which included playing 1:12 on the power play and 2:35 on the penalty kill.

However, his hits were the story of the game.

The biggest one came when Mark Scheifele was moving the puck through his neutral zone with his head down and Zadorov delivered a punishing shoulder blow at 9:42 of the third period. Zadorov's presence throughout the outing clearly frustrated the Jets as Jacob Trouba jumped him from behind immediately after the collision and a scrum ensued.

Tweet from @Avalanche: Nieto brought the goals...Duchene brought the assists...Pickard brought the saves...But Zadorov brought the boom! pic.twitter.com/C50deA8LS8

Trouba was given penalties for fighting, instigating and a 10-minute misconduct, while Zadorov was called for charging and fighting.

"My instinct on the hit is that it was clean right away from my first look at it," Bednar said. "I understand the penalty. They're seeing it and catching it in a glance. I have no problem with the penalty call, but I thought it was a clean hit."

Scheifele got up on his own power from the hit and remained in the game.

"I think I caught him cleanly," Zadorov said. "Good thing he didn't get injured. I don't want to get guys injured or anything. It is what is it. It's hockey, right?"

Video: Zadorov on his physical play

It wasn't the first Zadorov-Scheifele encounter of the game. On a delayed Avalanche penalty with 39 seconds left in the first period, Zadorov squared Scheifele up face-to-face and pummeled the Jets forward down onto the ice.

"I try to stay physical," Zadorov said. "Not every game there are huge hits, but today I had a couple. It's part of my game."

Zadorov understands his size and ability can be a tone-setter for how the game is played. He sure was that versus a Jets squad that rosters a few big bodies who aren't afraid to lay the lumber.

"I'm trying to use it every game," Zadorov said of his physical presence. "You look at the (game) sheet, I get three, four hits every night. It's my goal. It's what I'm going to do. It's how I'm getting the guys going and everything."

Video: Coach Bednar's postgame press conference

A 2013 first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres, Zadorov has shown great improvement in his second campaign with Colorado.

He now leads the team with 129 hits and 65 penalty minutes this season, while averaging a career-high 18:34 of ice per game. With 10 assists/points through 48 contests, he is also on pace to set career marks in both offensive categories as well.

And there is still plenty of room to grow for the towering blueliner from Moscow. He is only 21 years old.

DUCHENE DOMINANT

Matt Duchene may not have scored, but he had a heck of a game against the Jets.

The Avalanche forward recorded three assists, tying a career high, and set a personal best by winning 83.3 percent of his faceoffs. He also added five shots and two takeaways.

"It's frustrating not putting one in, but at the same time it's not going to go in every night," Duchene said. "Other guys were putting it in, which is great. I feel like it's been hard. Guys have lulls throughout the year… I had to regroup and stop worrying about things that I couldn't control and try to get back to it. Just trying to do whatever I can to help the team win, regardless of the situation we're in this season. We had a lot of big efforts from a lot of guys."

Video: Duchene on the win over Winnipeg

Duchene contributed to Jarome Iginla's game-opening goal at 5:27 of the first period and Matt Nieto's winning tally in the second and empty-netter in the third to seal the Avs' victory.

His assist on Iginla's 618th career NHL marker came roughly 90 seconds after Duchene took a shot off the back of one of his legs while trying to provide a screen in front of Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelec during a power play. Duchene gingerly went to the bench and was checked by a trainer before hopping back onto the ice to continue the man advantage.

"That's just being an offensive-minded guy that doesn't want to miss a power-play shift, I think," said Duchene with a smile. "It is still pretty sore, but the sting went away after Iggy put that one in."

In the faceoff circle, the center continued his dominant ways. His 20 faceoff wins Saturday were the second most of his career. His best came when he won 24 draws on March 27, 2013 at Calgary.

Duchene entered the contest against the Jets ranked second in the league in total faceoff percentage at 53.2 percent and first in draws in the offensive zone, winning 56.6 percent of the time.

BARRIE MISSES GAME

Defenseman Tyson Barrie missed his fifth game in the last seven on Saturday afternoon due to a lower-body injury.

Barrie, who had played in both of Colorado's contests in California earlier in the week, only took part in the first half of Friday's practice and was considered probable to play against the Jets, according to head coach Jared Bednar.

The Victoria, British Columbia, native was out of the team's lineup for four games from Jan. 19-25 due to the ailment.

Forward Rene Bourque (head) and defenseman Fedor Tyutin (groin) also missed the contest after getting hurt on Wednesday in Los Angeles. Tyutin was a late scratch after getting injured in warmup, while Bourque took a hit in the first period and didn't return to action versus the Kings.

"Probably day-to-day on all of them," Bednar said of the three injured skaters.
"I would say they're all probable to questionable for our next game."

BARBERIO MAKES AVALANCHE DEBUT

It's been a whirlwind four days for new Colorado defenseman Mark Barberio.

On Wednesday, he was placed on waivers by the Montreal Canadiens. On Thursday, the blueliner learned that he got picked up by the Avalanche and made the trip to Denver, not getting to his hotel until 11 o'clock at night. On Friday, Barberio took part in his first practice with the new club, and on Saturday, he played in his first contest at his new home.

"It was a lot of fun," Barberio said of his debut outing with the Avs. "Obviously, it was fun to win. It's always a positive. It was a great team effort tonight. Everybody contributed."

Barberio began the game paired on defense with Cody Goloubef. He finished with 20:31 of ice time, which included playing 7:38 in the first period and 7:31 in the third.

Bednar liked what he saw from the blueliner's transition game out of the defensive zone.

"Obviously, he can skate. So when he goes back for pucks, and even in the neutral zone when he picks up pucks, he has such good feet that he gets himself facing up the ice right way," Bednar said. "He can look at his first, second and third option and then decide where he wants to move with the puck. He didn't force too many plays and turn them over. He was just simple with the puck and moved it efficiently, and he did a good job defending."

The Avs' next game on Tuesday will be a big one for the Montreal, Quebec, native, as he'll take on the Canadiens for the first time since being waived.

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