Avalanche hoping for productive Zadorov vs. Blackhawks (Oct 28, 2017)
Nikita Zadorov was emerging as a force for the Colorado Avalanche last season when an ankle injury suffered in a practice on Feb. 20 cost him the rest of his season.
The young defenseman has been trying to establish himself again with the Avalanche, but this season hasn't gone as he hoped. Zadorov was a healthy scratch in Colorado's 7-0 loss at Vegas on Friday, the first game he has missed since opening night.
It remains to be seen if Zadorov will play Saturday night when the Avalanche host the Chicago Blackhawks, but it's apparent that coach Jared Bednar isn't happy with the Russian's play.
Zadorov has logged an average of 16 minutes, 28 seconds, of ice time the previous four games despite being with Erik Johnson on the top defensive pairing.
The message got stronger with the benching Friday, but based on Colorado's performance against the surprising expansion team, Bednar might have to bench his entire team. The Avalanche (5-5) were embarrassed by the Golden Knights, and the defense was lit up. Vegas had only 21 shots on goal but made them count.
"Two of the first three goals were self-inflicted," Colorado coach Jared Bednar told NHL.com. "We've got to be better with the puck in some of those areas when there's danger."
The Avalanche will need to play much, much better against Chicago.
The Blackhawks (5-4-2) will be try to break a two-game skid after Friday's win 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators at home. Coach Joel Quenneville shook up his lines to start Friday's game, moving rookie Alex DeBrincat to the top line with center Jonathan Toews and forward Brandon Saad.
The change in lines was necessary for Chicago, which went 1-2-1 before Friday, including a 4-2 loss at the surprising Golden Knights in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
"A lot of us have played with a lot of different guys, whether it's been in preseason or just throughout the season," forward Patrick Kane told NHL.com. "I think just for our group, things got a little dry there so we were probably due for a change. We've got so many good players on this team, it doesn't really matter who you play with."
The new lines translate into goals but Chicago had 44 shots on goal but Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne was sharp, stopping 43.
Even with their forgettable record last season, the Avalanche managed to finish 2-3 against Chicago, which won the Central Division before being swept by Nashville in the first round.
Colorado is trying to avoid another bad campaign, and so far, it has been up and down. The Avalanche started 4-1, lost three straight before beating Dallas on Tuesday.
Colorado has struggled with consistent play throughout the lineup, and one of the culprits has been Zadorov, although he isn't the only one. The Avalanche were guilty of that in the third period against Dallas when the Stars outshot them 13-3 at one point and nearly tied it before Matt Nieto's empty-net goal sealed it and gave him his first career hat trick.
"This team needs to learn how to play the entire game," said goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who had 13 of his 34 saves in the third period against Dallas. "Every game I feel like we play two periods and then we're just giving up one period. We're all happy after the game, but we have to learn how to play solid 60 minutes because we came out in the third period and just stopped playing. We cannot do this. The team we played against, they're too good to stop playing and not be focused."
Varlamov stopped 13 shots total on Friday in a forgettable game for the Avalanche. They get a chance to quickly put this one behind against the Blackhawks on Saturday.