Lineup altered to ease Nemeth back onto ice
TAMPA, FLA.» Patrik Nemeth returned from a 12-game injury absence and served as one of the Avalanche’s seven defensemen Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.
Colorado, which was beginning a four-game trip against the NHL’s best team, went with an extra defenseman and one less forward, partly to ease Nemeth back into the lineup. His back injury required a patient recovery and he only resumed skating last week.
The extra scratched forward was Nail Yakupov, the odd-man out for the first time this season.
“I think we need him in the lineup,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said of Nemeth after Thursday’s morning skate. “We need some heaviness, some experience, down there. (Tampa Bay is) a real quick team, kind of puts you under pressure. We’ve had some guys back there that have been in and out of their game. We better make sure we’ve got at least six guys going tonight, so that’s one of the reasons why we’re playing with seven.”
Nemeth, 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, suffered his back injury Nov. 5 at the New York Islanders. He was playing about 19 minutes a game on Colorado’s second pairing since he was acquired in the preseason off waivers from the Dallas Stars.
“I feel good,” Nemeth said. “We decided to make sure it heals 100 percent (rather) than just go in and out, not feeling great one day, and then the next day I feel better. And it goes back and forth. We just decided to shut it down and make sure it heals properly.”
Footnotes. In addition to Yakupov, forward Gabriel Bourque and defenseman Duncan Siemens were healthy scratches. … Former Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj made a rare start for the Lightning. Budaj, 35, played in just four of the previous 27 games behind regular starter Andrei Vasilevskiy. … Avs defenseman Mark Barberio went from being scratched last game to playing a team-high 8:35 in the first period. Rookie Sam Girard was limited to 3:14 in the first 20 minutes, lowest among the seven defensemen. … The Avs will practice Friday in Sunrise, Fla., and play the Panthers on Saturday night. The four-game trip resumes Monday at Pittsburgh and ends Tuesday in Washington.