Two Δord the show: Nor­we­gians face o≠

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Terry Frei

Satur­day night’s Avalanche-Rangers game at the Pepsi Cen­ter is go­ing to be big news in Baerum, Flekke­fjord and Oslo — and likely ev­ery­where else in Nor­way.

That’s be­cause Rangers stand­out Mats Zuc­carello and Avalanche winger An­dreas Martin­sen are the only Nor­we­gian-born play­ers cur­rently ac­tive in the NHL. They’ve been team­mates on na­tional teams but never have played against each other in the NHL. The Avalanche has had two other Nor­we­gian-born play­ers in their his­tory — de­fense­men Anders Myr­vold and Jonas Ho­los — but there have been only eight NHL play­ers from that coun­try in league his­tory.

Last sea­son, Martin­sen’s first in North Amer­ica after he had played pro­fes­sion­ally in Nor­way and Ger­many, he was re­called from San An­to­nio right after the Rangers beat the Avalanche 2-1 in Den­ver on Nov. 6. When the teams met in New York on Dec. 3, Avalanche coach Pa­trick Roy made Martin­sen a healthy scratch, much to the con­ster­na­tion of a siz­able Nor­we­gian me­dia con­tin­gent in Madi­son Square Gar­den.

“He’s a great guy,” Martin­sen, 26, said of Zuc­carello, 29. “It’s im­pos­si­ble not to like him. He al­ways come to the rink with a smile and it doesn’t mat­ter how big of a star he is. He’s al­ways been the same per­son since I met him for the first time when he was play­ing in the Nor­we­gian league. He’s the same guy now and he’s one of the big­gest play­ers in the NHL.”

The Nor­we­gian me­dia rep­re­sen­ta­tives sur­rounded Martin­sen in the visit­ing dress­ing room after the morn­ing skate in New York last sea­son, but soon got the bad news that Martin­sen wasn’t play­ing that night.

“I was dis­ap­pointed to be scratched and I didn’t think much about the fact that it was against (Zuc­carello),” Martin­sen said. “The Nor­we­gian news­pa­pers and jour­nal­ists were more dis­ap­pointed be­cause they came all the way over, and fi­nally two Nor­we­gian guys were go­ing to play against each other.

… Hope­fully, it is not go­ing to hap­pen this year.”

After prac­tice Fri­day, Avalanche coach Jared Bed­nar de­liv­ered as­sur­ances that Martin­sen, who has played in 34 of Colorado’s 35 games this sea­son, would be in the lineup Satur­day. Martin­sen has one goal and two as­sists for Colorado, av­er­ag­ing 10 min­utes of ice time in the Avalanche’s hor­rific sea­son. So the matchup be­tween the Nor­we­gians — Zuc­carello has 79 goals in his 341 ca­reer NHL games, all with the Rangers — will come off.

“I think when he’s on his game, he brings us a phys­i­cal edge,” Bed­nar said of the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Martin­sen. “He fin­ishes the body, and I think that when he’s skat­ing and do­ing that, he’s an ef­fec­tive role player for us. And then we’ve liked him on the penalty kill. … That’s kind of helped him carve out a lit­tle niche on our team.”

Said Martin­sen: “We’ve had some tough games, ob­vi­ously, and I’m not see­ing that many min­utes ev­ery game, but I’m feel­ing like I’m just try­ing to use the min­utes I get and get the best out of it, play my min­utes, play phys­i­cal and help the team that way.”

Martin­sen, who was born in Baerum, near Oslo, said hockey par­tic­i­pa­tion is spread­ing in his home­land.

“The na­tional team has been do­ing pretty good, so the in­ter­est is higher,” he said. “We get more and more play­ers each year and hope­fully we’ll see some more guys come to the NHL in the next few years. They’re start­ing to get teams up north and get­ting new rinks all over. But it takes time. It’s a small coun­try and it’s an even smaller sport in a coun­try where all they care about is ski­ing and our bad soc­cer team.”

NOTEBOOK Rangers:

This is a two-game trip for the Rangers, and they opened it with a 6-3 vic­tory at Ari­zona on Thurs­day. Winger Matt Puem­pel, claimed on waivers from Ot­tawa in Novem­ber, had a hat trick. … For­mer Avalanche winger Chris Drury, whose 2002 trade to Cal­gary re­mains one of the most crit­i­cized deals in fran­chise his­tory, is the Rangers’ as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager. He still is the only player to win the Hobey Baker Award (with Bos­ton Univer­sity) and the Calder Tro­phy (with Colorado), and he was with the Avalanche for four sea­sons and had 11 goals in the 2001 play­offs dur­ing the run to the Stan­ley Cup. He doesn’t travel with the Rangers, though, so this won’t be a re­union. … Vet­eran goalie Hen­rik Lundqvist, who has been mer­cu­rial this sea­son, has missed his last two sched­uled starts be­cause of the flu. Antti Raanta has started seven of the Rangers’ last 11 games.

Colorado prac­ticed Fri­day after its early morn­ing re­turn from Dal­las. Se­myon Var­lamov again wasn’t on the ice be­cause of the groin is­sues that have made him un­avail­able since Dec. 23, but coach Jared Bed­nar said the goalie was mak­ing progress. “We ex­pect him back on the ice (with the team) in the next cou­ple of days,” said Bed­nar, who added that Var­lamov had gone on the ice on his own Thurs­day and was “do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent” Fri­day . ... Calvin Pickard again will get the start in net, and Jeremy Smith re­mains his backup. Terry Frei, The Den­ver Post

Avalanche:

Avalanche left wing An­dreas Martin­sen is one of only two Nor­we­gian-born play­ers cur­rently ac­tive in the NHL. The other is Mats Zuc­carello of the New York Rangers. Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

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