The Denver Post

Time to sweat things yet?

- By Nick Groke

Nail Yakupov dripped with sweat at his locker Thursday morning and asked to take a seat, another pregame skate behind him. But he was not ready to contemplat­e a pending milestone.

The Avalanche right wing, a No. 1 overall pick less than six years ago, was set to play in his 300th game — and against one of his former teams, the St. Louis Blues.

“Really?” Yakupov said with a chuckle. “I can tell time flies. I just have to enjoy it and keep competing.”

But this night, at the Pepsi Center, carried a more pressing concern for Yakupov and the Avs. Coming off two consecutiv­e losses, Colorado was set to face a Blues team that made the playoffs last season and romped to a statement victory over Chicago on Wednesday night in St. Louis.

The Avs finished with the worst record in the NHL last season in part by allowing losing skids to turn into canyons. They lost at least three games in a row on eight occasions last season, including six streaks of at least five losses. The worst stretch saw the Avs lose nine games in a row from January into February, effectivel­y busting up their season.

So Colorado was not about to brush aside even a two-game losing skid.

“There needs to be a sense of urgency to stop this,” coach Jared Bednar said, “so we don’t let it get away from us.”

Yakupov, whom the Avs signed to a one-year, $875,000 deal in July, can see the issue from multiple angles.

He was with the Blues last season when they went 4-1 against the Avs on their way to a playoff run that included a first-round playoff series victory over the Minnesota Wild.

The Blues are largely unchanged this season. The Avs revamped in a big way and are now the second-youngest team in the league.

“(The Blues) are a playoff team and they have some veteran guys and some big bodies,” Yakupov said. “But this is a really good opportunit­y for me to start new with a new season.”

Kerfoot finds his footing.

Rookie forward Alexander Kerfoot played a full college career at Harvard from his natural position. He’s a center by trade. But to begin his first NHL season, the Avs bumped him to the wing.

“We thought it might be an easier transition for him,” Bednar said. “Kind of get his feet underneath him.”

Kerfoot got back to his roots Thursday.

Bednar moved him to center on a third line between Gabe Landeskog and J.T. Compher.

“That’s where he’s played his whole life, and I feel like he was getting closed out on the boards a little bit and not finding as much space as he’s used to,” Bednar said.


Jonathan Bernier’s start in goal continued a preplanned strategy of finding rest for top goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Bednar said he is trying to plan that rotation two weeks ahead of time, while leaving room to play a hot hand. Varlamov, Bednar said, is healthy. … Defenseman Patrik Nemeth (shoulder) returned to a defensive pairing with Tyson Barrie. Chris Bigras, instead, was a healthy scratch . ... The Avs sent down defenseman Andrei Mironov to the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage.

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