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Tjarnqvist Capitalizes on Opportunity

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Daniel Tjarnqvist knew his time would come eventually. In the meantime, all he could do was work hard in practice and keep himself ready until Avalanche head coach Tony Granato inserted him into the lineup.

Tjarnqvist was a healthy scratch for 15 of the Avalanche’s first 18 games and missed the other three with a foot injury (two games) and the flu (one game).

The Umea, Sweden, native finally got a chance to play earlier this week in Anaheim when defenseman Adam Foote couldn’t suit up due to injury. On Wednesday night at Pepsi Center, Tjarnqvist truly showed off his skills in Colorado’s 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues.

Paired mostly with Ruslan Salei, the blueliner posted a +2 rating with three shots on goal and two hits in 19:37 of ice time. But more importantly, he netted his first goal of the season, opening the game’s scoring at 11:20 of the first period. With David Jones controlling the puck behind the St. Louis goal, Tjarnqvist cut into the slot and buried a feed to Manny Legace’s blocker side.

“It was a long time ago (since he scored in the NHL). It was a long time ago since I played, too,” said Tjarnqvist. “I saw an opportunity there. I think Jonesey made a really good pass, I just had to get it on the net.”

St. Louis tied the game 4:52 into the second period when Scott Hannan failed to clear an Eric Brewer centering feed and Keith Tkachuk capitalized on the mistake by beating Peter Budaj from the front of the net.

The Avalanche’s defense continued to produce scoring opportunities throughout the second period. Ryan Smyth took one of those chances and turned it into a goal 10:06 into the frame, tipping home a Jordan Leopold point shot with Colorado on a power play to give the club a 2-1 advantage heading into the final frame.

Tjarnqvist also picked up a secondary assist on Ian Laperriere’s third goal of the season 8:11 into the third. The defenseman made a long outlet pass to Tyler Arnason, who gave up the puck to Laperriere at St. Louis’ blue line. Laperriere then fired a long shot by Legace to make it a 3-1 game.

With exactly four minutes remaining in the game, T.J. Hensick was whistled for a four-minute double minor for high sticking, putting the Blues on the power play for the remainder of the contest. St. Louis pulled Legace with two minutes left, but failed to get a shot past Budaj.

Sakic’s Back
Avalanche captain Joe Sakic made his return to the lineup tonight. Sakic originally missed a Nov. 6 match-up against the Minnesota Wild with a back injury, but attempted to return on Nov. 8 vs. Nashville. However, the 20-year veteran felt his back tighten up again and played only 7:19 against the Predators.

Sakic then missed five consecutive games with the injury and also sat out Monday’s game against Anaheim (tooth).

Sakic didn’t put up any points tonight against the Blues, but took 23 shifts and totaled 15:24 of ice time while recording a shot on goal and one hit.

Playing Short-Handed
Both teams were missing a bit of firepower in tonight’s game.

For starters, the Avs played their first game without winger Darcy Tucker, who was injured in a collision with Brendan Morrison during Monday’s game against Anaheim and is expected to miss four weeks.

Adam Foote (back/neck), Ben Guite (ribs) and John-Michael Liles (flu) were also sidelined for the home team. Cody McCormick was Colorado’s lone healthy scratch.

But the Blues had even more players in their infirmary, including Patrik Berglund (groin), Andy McDonald (ankle), T.J. Oshie (ankle), D.J. King (shoulder) and former Avalanche players Dan Hinote (ankle) and Paul Kariya (foot).

The Blues got some reinforcements Wednesday night, as Alexander Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo both made their St. Louis debuts. The duo was acquired from Toronto on Nov. 24 in exchange for Lee Stempniak.
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