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Girard Shines In Global Series Opener

Rookie was making his Avalanche debut

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

STOCKHOLM--As far as debuts go, Colorado Avalanche rookie defenseman Samuel Girard had a pretty good one.

"To be honest with you, I thought he was the best player on the ice," said captain Gabriel Landeskog of the Avs newcomer. "He was solid."

Girard didn't score a goal on Friday night at the Ericsson Globe, but he did record his first point with the Avalanche by contributing an assist and was dangerous throughout the game against the Ottawa Senators. Colorado dropped the first contest of the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series by a 4-3 score in overtime, but Girard showed why he is worthy of playing in the top league in North America as a 19-year-old.

"I thought he was outstanding to be honest with you," head coach Jared Bednar said. "Just watching him play, he's constantly moving his feet. He's hard to hit. He has good skating ability. He gets back to pucks hard, and I thought his decision making was great."

The Roberval, Quebec, native wasn't perfect on the night. Like any rookie, or player for that matter, there were mistakes during the contest. His most glaring might have been in the third period when he turned the puck over after missing it on a pass, allowing a breakaway to develop the other way.

Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov was there to make one of his 28 saves of the game on the sequence, and Bednar didn't have a problem with what Girard did in trying to move the puck up the ice.

"He did the right thing there. He just fanned on it, and it went the other way," Bednar said. "He's pretty sure of the puck. In the offensive zone, it was the same way. He's was moving the puck from the offensive zone blue line, bringing it to the net, making plays, and he's got a shot mentality too."

Creating plays is a reason why the Avalanche wanted Girard and made him a key piece of a three-team trade on Sunday that sent Matt Duchene to Ottawa and Kyle Turris from the Senators to the Nashville Predators. Girard played his first five NHL games this season with Nashville and recorded a goal and two assists in those contests.

His fourth point of the year, and first with Colorado, came from a cycle of the puck at the blue line and ended with Alexander Kerfoot redirecting Blake Comeau's shot over the shoulder of Senators goalie Craig Anderson.

His puck movement impressed fellow forward Nathan MacKinnon, who is no slouch either in the playmaking department.

"He was awesome," MacKinnon said. "Watching him in the O-zone, kind of circle around on top, frees guys, spin. There are only a handful of guys in the league that I've even seen do that. It's awesome that he's such a threat for us."

Girard appeared confident on the ice, and he said it's just the way he tries to play the game.

"I just want to bring what I'm able to bring for this team," Girard said. "That's what I did today I think, and I'm going to have to continue that tomorrow."

Despite the loss, Girard and the Avs created plenty of chances to pick up two points instead of the one they did earn on Friday night. The difference now is taking advantage of those occasions.

Ottawa outshot Colorado 32-19 overall, but Bednar said the discrepancy was because the Avs passed on some of their scoring opportunities.

"[The players] talked about taking a page out of [the Senators'] book because when they got in between the dots, they were shooting to the net," Bednar said. "They were crashing and they got some dangerous tips on some pucks with their net front. We ended up scoring on one like that too, but we still passed up on some shots."

Landeskog reiterated his coach's thought.

"I know we got some good movement in the O-zone, but we got to get the pucks to the net. Look at how they scored their goals, its nothing fancy," Landeskog said. "They just kind of kick it back and get to the net, shoot the puck."

Making that adjustment shouldn't be hard, as Colorado will face Ottawa again in less than 24 hours. The clubs wrap up their back-to-back set of the Global Series on Saturday night before returning to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean to continue their regular season.

ANOTHER ROOKIE IMPRESSES

Two days ago, Alexander Kerfoot was in a Swedish hospital. That didn't seem to faze him when he stepped on the ice come game time on Friday.

The rookie forward finished with a goal and an assist on three shots in Colorado's overtime loss to the Senators. His tally tied the outing at 2-2 in the second period.

"I thought he was making plays out there," Bednar said of Kerfoot. "He was pretty dangerous. I liked his commitment to come back in the D-zone. I thought he did a lot of good things for us tonight. He was a solid guy that we were playing. Kind of had a feeling that as it went on that he was going to be a guy that would help us even the score."

Kerfoot went to the hospital after having an allergic reaction to some food he ate at lunch during the team's off day on Wednesday. Everything ended up being OK with him, and he was a full participant for the club at the next day's practice.

HEALTHY AVS

Forwards J.T. Compher and Colin Wilson returned to game action Friday night after missing three weeks of action.

Compher (broken thumb) and Wilson (hip) were both hurt during the Avs' game on Oct. 19 against the St. Louis Blues. They began Friday's contest centering the bottom-six lines. Compher was the pivot between Matt Nieto and Blake Comeau, while Wilson led a group with wingers Rocco Grimaldi and Gabriel Bourque.

Tyson Jost, who suffered a lower-body injury in that Oct. 19 contest as well, is also getting close to a return. He took part in the Avs' morning skate wearing a regular, full-contact jersey. The exact timetable of when he'll be ready for game action has yet to be determined by head coach Jared Bednar.

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