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Postgame Wrap-Up: Graves Taking Advantage of Increased Minutes

Avalanche defenseman scored again in loss to Maple Leafs

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

Rookie Ryan Graves is in his third stint with the Colorado Avalanche this season and continues to make the most of the opportunities he's given.

The defenseman scored his third career NHL goal on Tuesday night and played meaningful minutes in the Avs' 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Pepsi Center.

The Maple Leafs pulled away early in the second period after tallying three times on the man advantage in a matter of 1:49. It was the fastest three goals that Colorado has allowed this season.

"Penalty trouble really hurt us," Graves said. "They have a good power play. We were in the box way too much for how good they are on the man advantage. They had a couple nice goals, a couple breakdowns in our coverage. I thought we played a pretty good game 5-on-5, but we got to stay out of the box."

Graves' marker with 4:44 left in the first period knotted the game at one, as his slap shot from the right point found its way through traffic and into the upper half of the Toronto net.

Video: TOR@COL: Graves buries blistering slapper

The Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, native is now tied with Samuel Girard for fourth among Avalanche defensemen in goals scored this season (three), doing so after only 12 NHL games.

Graves said following Tuesday's outing that his focus is on his play in his own end of the ice, but he'll take any offensive production that comes his way as well.

"Playing good defense, making a good first pass, supporting the rush when I can, but more so my priorities are on defense and trying to keep the puck out of my own net," he said. "Trying to be a solid, reliable D-man."

Graves had a solid all-around stat line at the end of the Toronto outing, registering three shots on goal, three hits, three blocked shots and a takeaway. He saw 14:14 of ice time--the second most of his career--and also played 41 seconds on the penalty kill.

Video: Graves on the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs

"It's exactly what I want to do, take advantage of the opportunity that I've been given. I'm trying to do just that," Graves said. "Stay within myself and play my game. If there are minutes there to be had, then do my best with what I get and make the most out of the opportunity."

The 6-foot-5, 226-pound rear guard is in his first full season with the Avalanche organization after being acquired by the club at last season's trade deadline from the New York Rangers.

Graves had played three American Hockey League campaigns before finally getting his chance in the show with Colorado earlier this year. He made his NHL debut on Dec. 27 at the Vegas Golden Knights and tallied his first goal four games later on Jan. 4 against the Rangers.

MULTI-POINT NIGHTS: Forward Alexander Kerfoot and defenseman Samuel Girard both contributed on each of the Avs' goals versus the Leafs. Kerfoot and Girard assisted on Graves' tally in the opening period before Kerfoot redirected Girard's point shot for Colorado's second marker at 8:14 of the third frame.

"It was a great play by him. He has a lot of poise up on the blue line," Kerfoot said of Girard's shot. "That is what we've been trying to do as a unit, get pucks to the net, and he was able to find a way in. We had traffic in front which made it difficult on their goalie."

Video: Kerfoot after the Avs hosted the Maple Leafs

Kerfoot now has eight multi-point performances this season, while Girard has produced at least two points in three games. Girard's only had two such outings last year.

GOALIE ACTION: Colorado goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and Philpp Grubauer both saw time in the crease against Toronto. Varlamov played the first 27:08 before Grubauer replaced him following the Avalanche's third power-play goal against in the middle period.

After the contest, head coach Jared Bednar said the switch was more to get Grubauer ice time and fire up his team than anything Varlamov was doing between the pipes.

"I thought Grubauer did a really nice job coming in cold. You know what, I'll say this too, I thought Varly was great too," Bednar said. "Varly gave us a chance to win. What is he going to do on the power-play goals? They're seam passes to quick spots. Bang, on and off the guy's tape. It's great execution by them. I don't think Varly had a chance."

Varlamov has started each of the previous four games for the Avalanche. Grubauer's last contest was last Tuesday versus the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Video: Jared Bednar after the loss to Toronto

ROOMIES & LINE-IES: The Avalanche recalled Tyson Jost from the Colorado Eagles on Monday, and the forward found himself in a familiar spot for the game against Toronto, between his two roommates.

Jost centered a line with J.T. Compher and Alexander Kerfoot, and the line helped generate both of the Avs' goals on Tuesday.

"I guess there is a little bit of a connection there with us being roommates and whatnot," Jost said of his line after morning skate. "We're excited. It's going to be a big task for us, we're playing a good team in Toronto. We're excited to be back together."

Jost was playing in his first NHL game since Jan. 16 at the Ottawa Senators. He had spent the previous three-plus weeks in Loveland where he recorded four goals and five points in eight AHL contests.

INJURY REPORT: Defenseman Ian Cole missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury that he sustained last Thursday at the Washington Capitals. Bednar said pregame that he didn't have an update on Cole other than that the veteran rear guard is out indefinitely.

Forward Colin Wilson didn't dress in his first game since Jan. 9 after getting hurt during Colorado's previous contest on Sunday at the Boston Bruins. Jost took Wilson's place in the lineup.

Defenseman Mark Barberio (head) and Vladislav Kamenev (shoulder) both remain out and on injured reserve. Barberio is recovering from a concussion suffered on Jan. 21, and Kamenev has been absent for the past 25 contests while rehabbing from surgery.

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