Defenseman Zach Redmond wasn't part of the Avalanche's playoff series with the Minnesota Wild last April, but he said he has a good idea of what to expect when Colorado begins the season with two games against the team that ended its 2014 playoffs.
"I'm jumping right into it with them. I'm going to be a part of it," Redmond said after Monday's practice, the Avs' first after the preseason concluded two days earlier. "I didn't necessarily lose to Minnesota, but I'm going to see their (his teammates) hurt with it and the fans. It's going to be a great way to open the season against a team with a scenario like that. It's going to be exciting."
|Zach Redmond |
Colorado opens its 2014-15 campaign with a home-and-home matchup against Minnesota, a little over five months after the Wild rallied back in Game 7 and eliminated the Avs in the first round. The clubs play in St. Paul, Minn., on Thursday night for the season opener before traveling to Denver on Saturday for the Avalanche's home opener.
The Avs' roster is down to 25 players, with 17 forwards and eight defensemen currently making up the squad. Head coach Patrick Roy has said he would like to field a team with 13 forwards and eight defensemen on it, meaning Redmond's spot on the team appears to be safe, and he'll be in line to make his first NHL season-opening roster.
The 26-year-old signed with the Avs as a free agent on July 1 and has only appeared in 18 NHL games, but he has already been through a lot.
As rookie with the Winnipeg Jets in 2012-13, Redmond suffered a life-threatening injury after a teammate's skate accidently cut an artery on his leg during a morning skate on Feb. 21 in Carolina. He ended up making a full recovery—he began skating again less than three months later—and returned to playing the following season.
For Redmond, it is gratifying to begin the season with an NHL club.
"I feel great about it," he said. "I think last year was an odd year for me. Coming back from a big injury, kind of having to earn my contract for this year. I kind of stuck with it through the ups and downs and was able to come out of it and landed here, which is a great fit. Great city, great team, and I couldn't be happier with how it has turned out."
The Traverse City, Mich., native was likely pegged as a front-runner to make the club before training camp, but Redmond said he knew nothing was guaranteed and set out to make a strong impression on the Avalanche staff when he arrived in Colorado.
"I needed to come in, to put my best foot forward and make sure that they knew that I was here to play, and that they are comfortable putting me on their roster," Redmond said. "It's all worked out."
A three-time letterwinner at Ferris State College, Redmond has had a decent preseason after participating in a long playoff run with the St. John's Ice Caps to the American Hockey League Calder Cup Final in June. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound blueliner appeared in four preseason games the past two weeks and tallied a goal, had two penalty minutes and six shots.
Redmond had been paired with veteran Avs defenseman Ryan Wilson for the past few exhibition games and practices, and he said they have formed a bit of chemistry with each other.
"We talk a lot on the ice," Redmond said. "He's easy to play with, big body. He's good defensively, but he'll jump up too. He's a great guy to play with, and I would be happy moving forward with that."
As a newcomer to the squad, Redmond said he understands what his role will be on the team. He may not play every game, but he'll be a valuable piece on the Avalanche back end.
"I need to keep working hard," Redmond said. "If I start in the top six or am sitting for a while, I've done them both last year and the year before. I know what to expect, I suppose. I just need to work hard, do everything they tell me and listen, get familiar with the system, be a good teammate."