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Skrastins Nears 'Ironman' Mark For Defenseman

by Staff Writer / Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Karlis Skrastins, who has not missed a regular-season game in nearly seven years, is on the verge of establishing the National Hockey League record for consecutive games by a defenseman.

Skrastins is one game shy of tying Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Tim Horton, who played in 486 consecutive games for the Toronto Maple Leafs from Feb. 11, 1961 to Feb. 4, 1968. Skrastins is scheduled to tie Horton Tuesday against Florida and set the record Thursday when the Avalanche host the Atlanta Thrashers at Pepsi Center.

Skrastins, who began his streak Feb. 21, 2000 as a rookie with the Nashville Predators in a 5-2 victory over the Dallas Stars, appeared in each of the final 23 games with the Predators in 1999-00. He played all 82 games with Nashville each season from 2000-01 through 2002-03; in all 82 games with the Colorado Avalanche each season from 2003-04 through 2005-06, and has played in all 52 contests with the Avalanche this season.

"He's a guy that really flies under the radar in terms of the attention he gets, but our team is very much aware of the contributions he makes each and every game," Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville said. "Whether it's blocking shots, killing penalties or just being in the right place all the time, he's very reliable, steady and consistent in the way he goes about his game. As a coach, you love to have a guy like that."

"He's one of those defensemen who get in the way all the time," Predators head coach Barry Trotz recently told the Denver Post. "He gets in the way of the opposition, he gets in the way of pucks. He's a great shot blocker. He's very courageous. He doesn't say much; he just goes out and plays. He never complains. He's got the wrist straps, he's got the knee strap, he's got everything going. He's just a warrior. Here's a guy where he takes a puck in the face and you go, 'I don't think he's going to be around for a couple of weeks.' And he's at practice the next day."

In part due to the more-physical nature of their position and to the greater ice time they receive, defensemen have not produced as many lengthy consecutive-game streaks as forwards. Of the 14 players in NHL history who have registered streaks of 500 games or longer, 13 are forwards and the other is goaltender Glenn Hall. The longest streak in NHL history is 964 games, set by center Doug Jarvis from 1975-76 to 1987-88.

According to statistics gleaned from the League's Real Time Scoring System, Skrastins has logged 10,086 minutes and six seconds in ice time during the streak, an average of 20:48 per game and the equivalent of seven full days. He has played 8,014:47 at even strength, 165:11 on the power play and 1,906:08 shorthanded.

The 32-year-old Riga, Latvia native was a ninth-round pick by the Predators, 230th overall, in the 1998 Entry Draft. He skated in two games for the Predators in their inaugural NHL season of 1998-99, spending most of the season with the club's IHL affiliate in Milwaukee, and earned a regular spot on the Nashville blueline in 1999-2000. He was acquired by the Avalanche in a June, 2003 trade.

400+ Games Played By Defensemen
(through games of Sunday, Feb. 4)

First Game/Last Game
Tim Horton
Feb. 11, 1961 to Feb. 4, 1968
Karlis Skrastins
Nsh, Col
Feb. 21, 2000 to Feb. 4, 2007
Kevin Lowe
Jan. 28, 1981 to March 7, 1986

Most Consecutive Games Played (Active)
(through games of Sunday, Feb. 4)

Karlis Skrastins
Brendan Morrison
Cory Sarich
Tampa Bay
Andrew Brunette
Miroslav Satan
NY Islanders

Most Consecutive Games Played (All-Time)

Player Pos Club(s) Games
Doug Jarvis C Mtl, Wsh, Hfd 964
Garry Unger C Tor, Det, StL, Atl 914
Steve Larmer RW Chicago 884
Craig Ramsay LW Buffalo 776
Andy Hebenton RW NYR, Bos 630
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