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Avs' Galiardi already looks like playoff veteran

by Rick Sadowski
CENTENNIAL, Colo. – It's taken only two games for rookie T.J. Galiardi to look like a scarred veteran who's already been through a long playoff grind.

The 21-year-old Colorado Avalanche forward is sporting 14 stitches on and near his upper lip, souvenirs from an errant stick in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals with the San Jose Sharks. He also absorbed a jarring hit from Sharks defenseman Rob Blake in Game 2, one that knocked off his helmet and sent him careening to the ice.

"Actually, I'm in pretty good shape, other than the face," Galiardi said Saturday. "It doesn't even hurt."

Avalanche coach Joe Sacco gave the team off following Friday night's 6-5 overtime loss in San Jose, a game in which the Sharks scored the tying goal in the final minute of regulation before Devin Setoguchi's power-play goal at 5:22 of the extra period evened the best-of-7 series at one win each.

Despite the disappointing defeat, Avalanche players are eager to resume the series Sunday night before their home fans at the Pepsi Center.

"We got a split in a tough arena, and we're glad to come home and we know the fans are going to be really loud and we're looking forward to it," Galiardi said.

Galiardi, who plays left wing on the Avs' top line with Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart, has become a thorn in the Sharks' side and plans to continue his in-your-face, agitating style of play in Game 3.

"I'm going to try and bring any element I can to the series," he said. "I'm going to play hard every time I'm on the ice and if they don't like it, it's too bad."

Galiardi scored 15 goals in 69 regular-season games – he missed a dozen games with various injuries – while providing plenty of energy, enthusiasm and speed to the Avalanche lineup.

A pest with some skill, the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder has elicited hits and snarls from a number of Sharks, including Blake and defenseman Dan Boyle.

"It's awesome," Galiardi said. "You don't have to fight to be effective when you're playing hard. You just have to finish every check and get in on the forecheck hard and if Boyle thinks he can't be hit, that's too bad."

If anything, Sacco would like to see more players follow Galiardi's lead.

"It's that time of year where you have to find a way to take advantage any way you can against your opponent," Sacco said. "He plays a lot of minutes and he plays useful and important minutes, too, so if we can have someone like him who is able to do that, it'll make us more effective as a team.

"We need it from a lot of other guys, too. It can't be just one guy. It has to be a collective effort. But he's been good at it. Because he skates well, he can finish checks. If he's able to do that – play hard between the whistles, not so much when the whistle blows – you can kind of get your opponent off your game a little bit."

Blake drilled Galiardi with a high, open-ice check in overtime Friday that didn't sit well with the Avalanche when no penalty was called. But Sacco declined on Saturday to call for the NHL to suspend Blake -- "The league supervisors will handle that situation," he said -- and Galiardi suggested it wasn't his place to comment on the legality of the hit.

"I'm a 21-year-old guy just in the playoffs and I'm going to let the refs do their job," Galiardi said. "They see better than I do. I mean, my helmet came off and that's all I remember. It didn't hurt or anything. I'll let them do their job and I'll just stick to playing. It probably looked worse than it was. I was back the next shift, so it was no problem."

Nor does the Avalanche believe Friday's loss – Colorado squandered five one-goal leads – will have a lasting effect on their psyche.

"I think we're fine," Matt Duchene said. "It was tough to lose a game in that fashion. It's an even series and now we're back home and hopefully we can take advantage of it."

The Avalanche lost third-line right wing Kevin Porter to an upper-body injury in the second period Friday, and he won't play Sunday. Counting the regular season, Peter Mueller will miss his seventh game because of a concussion and David Jones isn't ready to play as he recovers from major knee surgery.

Sacco said he would decide Sunday morning who to suit up as a replacement for Porter.

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