Nikita Zadorov

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Rangers sign KHL d-man Bereglazov

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New York added some defensive depth on Friday, agreeing to terms with Russian blueliner Alexei Bereglazov.

Bereglazov, 23, has spent the last few seasons with KHL club Metallurg Magnitogorsk, including a ’16-17 campaign in which he scored 19 points in 60 games. He led all d-men aged 24 or younger in assists, with 18.

Despite being passed over at the draft, Bereglazov had a good junior career, highlighted by capturing bronze for Russia at the 2014 World Juniors. He finished with two points in seven games in the tourney, playing alongside the likes of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Ivan Barbashev and his new Rangers teammate, Pavel Buchnevich.

It’ll be interesting to see where he fits in New York next season. The club has seven blueliners under contract — Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Klein, Nick Holden, Brady Skjei and Steve Kampfer — with Brendan Smith a pending UFA, and Adam Clendening a pending RFA.

 

‘Not much positive’ to take from Avs’ miserable season

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DENVER (AP) Defenseman Erik Johnson neatly summed up the Colorado Avalanche’s dreary season.

“Not fun,” he said. “Don’t want to go through it again.”

Here’s how far the Avalanche tumbled: Their 48 points were the lowest in a full season since 1999-2000, when the expansion Atlanta Thrashers had 39. Colorado was pretty much out of the playoff race by Christmas.

Now, the real work begins for Hall of Fame forward-turned-general manager Joe Sakic. Colorado will have a high draft pick – maybe even the top pick – but some big decisions to make. Namely, whether or not to completely overhaul this team by possibly trading captain Gabriel Landeskog or forward Matt Duchene after a third straight season of missing the playoffs.

“I want to be here and figure this thing out,” Landeskog said. “From the bottom of my heart, I want to be here and build this thing, because this is truly rock bottom.”

The season got off to a rough start before it even began when Patrick Roy surprisingly stepped aside in August. Taking his place was first-time NHL coach Jared Bednar.

Colorado’s unraveling started in late November, when the team went 0-4-1 on a homestand. Soon after, the Avalanche endured a 2-18-1 stretch. They finished 61 points behind Central Division winner Chicago.

“It shouldn’t happen, with the players we have here. It’s unacceptable to have as many losses as we did,” defenseman Francois Beauchemin said.

Asked about any positives he can take from such a downtrodden season, Beauchemin paused.

“I can’t think of anything,” he said. “There’s not much positive.”

Well, maybe a few things, like the development of 19-year-old Tyson Jost, who was taken with the 10th overall pick in 2016, signed a three-year entry contract on March 29 and scored his first NHL goal last week. Or the play of Mikko Rantanen, the Finnish forward who earned his 20th goal in the season finale.

“We have a lot of good, young players coming up,” said the 21-year-old Nathan MacKinnon, who led the team with 53 points and played in all 82 games. “It’s going to take some work, but I think the future is bright.”

Colorado has a 17.9 percent chance of earning the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft lottery and won’t finish lower than fourth. The team also has until Aug. 15 to negotiate a deal with University of Denver standout defenseman Will Butcher, who recently won the Hobey Baker Award and a national championship. He was a fifth-round selection by Colorado in 2013.

Johnson doesn’t think this team is all that far from being a contender again.

“It’s not like we re-gutted it and took on a new team. It’s just one of those years,” said Johnson, who missed 36 games with a broken leg. “Just have to hit the reset button and come back hungry and remember what this feels like.”

Related: Fixing the Avs won’t be easy

Here are things to know about the Avalanche’s worst full season since moving to the Mile High City in 1995-96:

RUMORS, RUMORS: Duchene’s name will surface in trade speculation this offseason – just like it did at the trade deadline. “Whatever happens, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be an Av,” said the 26-year-old Duchene, who moved into the top 10 this season in franchise scoring. “We’ll see what happens.”

HARD TO FATHOM: Colorado was in contention for a playoff berth down the stretch in 2015-16, so the sudden deterioration is a surprise. “They’ve got some great talent there. To me, it’s a mystery why they’ve not had the success they should’ve had,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said.

NO EASY ANSWER: One quick fix to get the Avalanche back on track? Probably not that simple. “We’ve proven we can play some good hockey at times,” Bednar said. “We have to get there more consistently.”

VARLY’S RETURN: In 2013-14, goaltender Semyon Varlamov was a candidate for the Vezina Trophy after a 41-win season. This season, Varlamov was limited to 24 games before undergoing season-ending hip surgery in late January. “I’m looking forward to getting a fresh start in September,” he said. There’s a chance Varlamov could be left unprotected by the team in the upcoming expansion draft with Las Vegas set to join the league.

FREE AGENTS: The Avalanche’s most notable unrestricted free agents are John Mitchell, Rene Bourque and Fedor Tyutin. The restricted free agents include Matt Nieto, Mikhail Grigorenko, Patrick Wiercioch, Nikita Zadorov and Sven Andrighetto.

Reinhart suggests benching was a stretch

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Two days after Sam Reinhart was bolted to the pine for the entirety of Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to Columbus — his punishment for showing up late to a team stretch — Reinhart discussed the incident, and didn’t sound overly thrilled about how it played out.

“It’s a coach’s decision. It’s a management decision,” Reinhart said, per the Buffalo News. “From my perspective, I would have rather battled it out with my teammates.

“I don’t think five minutes in the morning is going to influence my preparation for a game, but it was a team stretch and I should have been there on time.”

Reinhart also had this to say:

Discipline of this nature is pretty common, though the way Reinhart’s played out was a bit more dramatic. Rather than park him in the press box as a healthy scratch, the Sabres — who didn’t have an extra forward, as Kyle Okposo was out sick — dressed the 21-year-old, then sat him for the entire 60 minutes.

The Buffalo News said the move “would seem to send a deeper message than merely being scratch,” adding that “there has been friction between players and [Sabres head coach Dan] Bylsma throughout the season.”

In the club’s defense, Reinhart is hardly the first young player to be punished for lateness. Nikita Zadorov had repeated issues with punctuality and, after being suspended, was eventually traded to Colorado. Evander Kane was parked for a game last season after sleeping in and missing a practice.

Of course, each situation is unique and some will argue showing up five minutes late for a stretch isn’t on par with what Zadorov and Kane did. Which is fair. That could be why Bylsma said the club might consider a policy change.

And that could by why Reinhart’s teammate, Jack Eichel, tried to put things in perspective.

“We’re obviously not going to hold it over his head here,” Eichel said, per the News. “He didn’t really do too much wrong.”

Sutter ties Murray for most wins as Kings coach

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DENVER (AP) Just like his goaltender, Darryl Sutter proved good at deflecting.

Sutter sidestepped questions about moving into a tie for most wins as coach of the Los Angeles Kings following a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.

He’d rather the spotlight shine on his players (Trevor Lewis scored the go-ahead goal with a slick move in the second period) and his goaltender (Peter Budaj stopped 24 shots) than any personal accomplishment.

“That’s good,” Sutter said after capturing his 215th win as L.A.’s coach to draw even with Andy Murray.

Pressed if that sort of milestone says anything, he simply responded: “Good teams. Lots of good teams. Good players.”

Sutter singled out defenseman Drew Doughty, who committed a costly turnover that led to Mikko Rantanen‘s second-period goal, only to atone with a pinpoint backhanded pass that set up Tyler Toffoli‘s equalizer moments later.

“Just tells you how good of a player Drew is – he makes that mistake on their goal and comes right back and evens it up,” said Sutter, whose team snapped a three-game skid. “Tells you how good he is, how passionate he is about it.”

Budaj was solid against his former team, especially in the third period when he stopped all 11 shots he faced. Budaj picked up victory No. 27 this season, his most since winning 31 with Colorado in 2006-07.

He also had some assistance from the posts.

“Four or five times,” Budaj said. “A couple times pretty heavy. … Sometimes you get the bounces, so it’s great.”

The Avalanche pulled goaltender Calvin Pickard with around 1:55 remaining but couldn’t capitalize, dropping to 1-6-1 over their last eight games. Tyson Barrie hit the post with about seven minutes remaining in the third period.

“We just weren’t sharp enough around the net and it ended up costing us,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said.

Another close encounter with a team fighting for a playoff spot.

“It’s a fun challenge for us to try and play a spoiler role,” Landeskog said. “At the same time we’re trying to polish up our game and our systems coming into next year, because that’s really what we’re preparing for, making sure we’re bettering ourselves for next year.”

Rantanen gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead 32 seconds into the second period when he stole the puck from Doughty at the blue line and beat Budaj with a shot into the upper corner. Rantanen has goals in three straight games.

Los Angeles responded by scoring twice in a span of 6:14. Toffoli scored on a nifty pass from Doughty just before being shoved into the net and knocking the goal all the way into the boards.

After an Avalanche turnover, Lewis glided down the left side, cut toward the middle with Barrie chasing him and pushed the puck past Pickard to make it 2-1.

“We were talking before the game we need to win some games and kind of get a streak going so we can get in the playoffs here, and be comfortable and not be waiting until the last game of the season,” Toffoli said. “It was a big game for us tonight.”

Los Angeles was called for two penalties in the first period, leading to a pair of quality scoring chances for Colorado. On one, Landeskog kept poking at the puck down low as Budaj turned him away repeatedly until the net finally dislodged. On another, Rantanen had an open net, but Budaj slid over to deflect the shot away.

“It’s always fun to play here,” Budaj said. “It’s a great building, too. I enjoy coming back here.”

NOTES: Sutter tied Jacques Lemaire (1,262) for 13th on the all-time games coached list. … Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick (lower-body injury) faced some shots during the morning skate. He’s been sidelined since being injured in the season opener. … Colorado will be without hard-hitting defenseman Nikita Zadorov for the rest of the season after he broke his ankle Monday at practice. … D Erik Johnson is nearing a return after being sidelined since early December with a broken leg.

UP NEXT

Kings: Host Boston on Thursday.

Avalanche: At Nashville on Thursday.

Avalanche say ankle injury ends Nikita Zadorov’s season

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As if the Colorado Avalanche needed another miserable element to 2016-17: Nikita Zadorov suffered a season-ending injury during the same practice that Erik Johnson returned.

Zadorov injured his ankle after being tangled up with Mikko Rantanen during a Monday practice, according to the Denver Post.

Update: The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers reports that it’s a fractured ankle. Yikes.

Zadorov, 21, is a big defenseman with the pedigree that would inspire teams to imagine better things in the future (16th pick in 2013 by Buffalo). So far, that potential hasn’t really manifested itself in production, whether you judge a player by points, plus/minus or possession numbers.

He may be able to put it together at some point – again, he’s young – so perhaps he’ll remember this as a low point before he turns things around.

At the moment, it’s just another grim part of a bleak time for the Avs.