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Veteran Liles Having A Career Year

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
John-Michael Liles is having quite a year, and he’s proving that his success early in the season wasn’t a fluke or simply a matter of getting hot at the right time.

Having already set an NHL record for defensemen by starting the season with assists in nine straight games, Liles has continued to produce. This past week, the blueliner totaled seven points (2g/5a) in four Avalanche victories, including a three-point effort (2g/1a) in last Monday’s victory over the St. Louis Blues at Pepsi Center.

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The Indianapolis native’s production hasn’t gone unnoticed. On Monday, Liles was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week.

“It’s one of those times where you have a bit of a run and are able to contribute offensively,” said Liles “For me, that’s something I’m trying to do every game.”

His achievements are much more than “a bit of a run,” as Liles has recorded at least one point in 14 of Colorado’s 20 games this season while also posting five multi-point games. He’s also tied with Nicklas Lidstrom for the NHL lead in assists (17) and points (20) by a defenseman.

Showcasing the generally humble nature of most hockey players, Liles passes along a good deal of credit to his teammates for his recent success.

“It’s something that’s definitely special, but if we hadn’t won the games we’ve won in the past couple weeks I don’t think I have a chance for the honor,” said Liles. “There’s a lot of guys in this room who could have definitely got it. We have a lot of guys playing well right now.”

It may come as a surprise to some, but Liles will actually hit a milestone away from the ice later this week. The defenseman will actually 30 years old on Thanksgiving Day.

With the spark he's been providing this season – not to mention the fact that he’s still one of the fastest skaters on the club - Liles seems to fit right into the youthful Avalanche locker room. He’s averaging a point-per-game through the first quarter of the season and is well on his way to topping his previous career-high of 49 points (14g/35a), set during the 2005-06 campaign.

 Is it safe to say that 30 is the new 20?

“I hope so, I definitely hope so,” said Liles. “Somebody told me the other day that 30 is the new 40, and I really didn’t want to hear that.”

To him, it seems like only yesterday that he was considered one of the “green” players on a veteran-laden Colorado squad.

“It’s one of those things where you kind of step back and don’t know where the time goes,” said Liles. “It seems like a week ago I was in this room sitting here with Forsberg, Selanne, Sakic and all those guys. It’s a little scary, but it’s exciting too. I’m still plugging away and still hopefully making an impact in this league.”

Defensively Speaking
The Avalanche’s defensive conundrum is starting to get cleared up. As recently as Nov. 13, Colorado was carrying a total of 11 defensemen on its roster due to injuries. Since that time, Adam Foote (head), Ryan Wilson (knee) and Kyle Quincey (head) have either returned to action or been cleared to play, which led to Colby Cohen and David Liffiton being reassigned to the Lake Erie Monsters.

On Saturday, the Avalanche took one more step toward clearing up its logjam on the defensive end, reassigning Jonas Holos to Lake Erie.

Holos was a healthy scratch for the Avalanche’s first four games of the season before suiting up for 12 straight contests from Oct. 16 to Nov. 13. However, the Norway native had again been a healthy scratch during Colorado’s past four games. 

In his 12 NHL contests, Holos had produced two assists and a +3 plus/minus rating.

The move leaves Colorado with seven healthy defensemen on its roster and eight overall, as Kyle Cumiskey remains on injured reserve with a head injury suffered on Oct. 30 vs. Columbus. Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco has gone on record saying that the club would consider leaving eight blueliners on the roster.

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