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Girard Set To Make Avalanche Debut In Sweden

The rookie defenseman was acquired in Sunday's trade

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

STOCKHOLM--It's been a whirlwind few days for young defenseman Samuel Girard.

At this time last week, Girard was in Southern California getting ready for games against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings with the Nashville Predators. Now he's preparing for his Colorado Avalanche debut tonight in Stockholm, Sweden, in the SAP NHL Global Series.

Girard arrived in Sweden early Tuesday and was running on three hours of sleep when he practiced with his new club later in the morning. He had a better performance in the Avs' on-ice session on Thursday, and is preparing for a larger role with the club this evening against the Ottawa Senators.

The 19-year-old will be paired on defense with Tyson Barrie and will see time on the club's top power-play unit as well.

"He's ready to go," Colorado head coach Jared Bednar said of Girard after today's morning skate. "If you look at his practices, the first day he was running on a couple hours of sleep and he was pretty sluggish, as expected. The second day, he got better. I thought he was crisp. Today, he was skating real well and was moving the puck great."

Barrie and Girard are similar players in that they have a lot of offensive upside to their games. Barrie is tied for the team scoring lead with 14 points (two goals and 12 assists), while Girard has three points (one goal and two assists) in his first five career NHL games.

Girard showcased his playmaking ability with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League over the past two seasons. He had 74 points (10 goals and 64 assists) in 67 games in 2015-16 and produced a 75-point campaign (nine goals and 66 assists) in 59 contests last year.

Finding the balance between offense and defense will be key for the duo against an Ottawa club that has only lost three times in regulation this season.

"We're obviously going to have to focus when we are in the D-zone to work hard, trying to be physical when we can. He's obviously skilled and can move the puck," Barrie said of Girard. "It's kind of my game, too. We'll be looking to get it into the forward's hands quick."

Girard joined the Avalanche on Sunday in a three-team trade that included the Predators and Senators. Colorado also received three prospects and three draft picks in exchange for forward Matt Duchene, who went to Ottawa, while the Senators sent Kyle Turris to Nashville.

The Roberval, Quebec, native is still eligible to play major-junior hockey in Canada and can appear in another four NHL games before burning a year of his entry-level contract.

However, Girard's goal is clear: to stay in the NHL.

"That's what I want. I want to be on the team, and I want to play," Girard said after Thursday's practice. "I want to have my chance here. I'm going do to all possible to stay here with the Avs."

A good showing tonight and over the next few games can help him do just that.

RETURNING TO ACTION

Forwards J.T. Compher and Colin Wilson will return to action tonight after missing the past few weeks due to injuries. Compher (broken thumb) and Wilson (hip) have both been out of the lineup since last playing on Oct. 19 against the St. Louis Blues.

Compher has been practicing in Sweden as the third-line center with Matt Nieto and Blake Comeau, and he will begin this evening's game in that spot. Wilson will center the fourth line with Rocco Grimaldi and Gabriel Bourque.

A.J. Greer, Tyson Jost, Andrei Mironov, Patrik Nemeth and Carl Soderberg won't play tonight.

Jost has been out with a lower-body injury since getting hurt in that same contest against the Blues, but he took part in his first full-contact, on-ice session on Friday morning. However, Jost's timetable on when he can return to game action has yet to be determined.

Gabriel Landeskog of Stockholm will be the only Swedish player that will dress for the Avs today. Fellow Stockholm native Nemeth hasn't taken the ice since Sunday due to a lower-body injury, while Soderberg (Malmo) returned to Colorado to be with his wife, who is expecting the birth of the family's third child any day now. Defenseman Anton Lindholm (Skelleftea) also went back to Denver after breaking his jaw in the team's win on Saturday at the Philadelphia Flyers.

As expected, Russian goaltender Semyon Varlamov will get the start in net tonight for the Avalanche and could play in Saturday's contest as well.

"Varly is going tonight. We haven't discussed what we're going to do tomorrow," Bednar said. "We'll watch how tonight goes. It could be [Jonathan] Bernier."

Playing on back-to-back nights is a possibility given the fact that Varlamov hasn't played since Saturday and the Avs' next game after the Global Series isn't until Thursday at home versus the Washington Capitals.

PROJECTED LINE COMBINATIONS

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Sven Andrighetto - Alexander Kerfoot - Nail Yakupov
Matt Nieto - J.T. Compher - Blake Comeau
Rocco Grimaldi - Colin Wilson - Gabriel Bourque

Mark Barberio - Erik Johnson
Samuel Girard - Tyson Barrie
Nikita Zadorov - Chris Bigras

Semyon Varlamov
Jonathan Bernier

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