Daniel Briere has been a healthy scratch in each of Colorado’s last six contests, but he isn’t letting the situation frustrate him.
“I’m trying to take it all in,” Briere explained, per the Delaware County Daily Times. “I don’t want to be that miserable old guy that comes to the rink every day just complaining about everything.
“I try to have fun with it, have fun with the guys and enjoy as much as I can while I still have the chance.”
At 37, it’s clear time has caught up with Briere. He’s struggled through three consecutive down years in three different cities — Philadelphia, Montreal and Colorado — and suffered setbacks in each market: Philly bought him out, Montreal traded him after banishment to the press box and the Avs are now parking him in favor of the likes of Dennis Everberg and Marc-Andre Cliche.
That said, he is trying to fill the role Colorado envisioned for him — even if it’s not on the ice. Briere, along with Jarome Iginla and Brad Stuart, is a veteran presence brought aboard to help one of the NHL’s youngest teams adapt to life with expectations after last year’s breakout campaign. In that regard, Briere isn’t just fulfilling his duties with the Avs — he’s relishing them.
“I’m staying ready for whenever they need me,” he explained. “We have some extra (players) and I just have to bide my time in a little bit of a different role. But I embrace it.
“I don’t know how much time I have left but I don’t want to come to the rink and be miserable and not enjoying what’s going on. Right now all I can do is stay ready.”
Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon scored his first two goals of the season Thursday and Semyon Varlamov made 40 saves as Colorado shutout the New York Islanders 5-0.
MacKinnon, who scored 24 goals and 63 points last season capturing the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie, was held to just four assists through the first 10 games of the season.
Cody McLeod, Marc-Andre Cliche and Erik Johnson had the other Avalanche goals.
With the win, Colorado has now collected points in five straight games (2-0-3).
You’re a playoff-bound team that just lost your leading scorer (and No. 1 center) for the remainder of the regular season. What do you do?
Promote the 18-year-old. Obviously.
That’s what the Colorado Avalanche are doing tonight in Columbus — rookie Nathan MacKinnon will man the middle of the club’s top line between Jamie McGinn and Ryan O’Reilly, replacing the injured Matt Duchene.
“I’m comfortable at center,” MacKinnon said, per NHL.com. “I’m comfortable at wing as well. Down the road I might end up back at wing. We’ll see how it goes [Tuesday]. Hopefully we can create some early chemistry and play pretty well.”
MacKinnon played center in junior, but has spent the majority of this season at right wing and acquitted himself well, leading all first-year players in goals (23), assists (33) and points (51).
It’ll be interesting to see how MacKinnon, the first overall pick at the ’13 NHL Entry Draft, fares in the faceoff circle. Colorado isn’t a great faceoff team to begin with (49.4 percent, 18th in the league) and Duchene was one of the club’s most active guys on the draw, taking 1058 this year (winning 50.3 percent).
MacKinnon has been somewhat active — he’s fifth on the team, with 393 faceoffs taken — but is operating at just a 43.5 percent clip.
As for the rest of Colorado’s line juggling, Paul Stastny will center Gabriel Landeskog and John Mitchell, who jumps up from the third to second line. That’ll give the Avs a look of MacKinnon-Stastny-Marc-Andre Cliche-Brad Malone down the middle, though O’Reilly has played center extensively in the past and could move there without much issue.
Colorado has re-upped with checking forward Marc-Andre Cliche on a two-year deal, the club announced on Thursday.
Cliche, 26, is enjoying a career year with the Avs, recording highs in every statistical category while emerging as a valuable member of the team’s 16th-ranked penalty kill.
“Marc-Andre has been a solid addition to our hockey club,” Avs VP Joe Sakic said in a statement. “He has done a tremendous job on the penalty kill, has a great work ethic, and we’re excited to have him under contract for the next two years.”
The 56th overall pick at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Cliche is a late bloomer — he only appeared in one NHL contest prior to this season (with the Kings in 2009-10) and spent a long time toiling in AHL Manchester before getting picked up on waivers by the Avs during training camp.
He proceeded to impress, make the team and now leads all Colorado forwards in shorthanded time on ice, with 2:35 per game.
In the absence of injured center Matt Duchene, the top two Colorado Avalanche lines will look a little different when the suddenly struggling club hosts Chicago tomorrow.
Following is what the Denver Post expects we’ll see:
Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Ryan O’Reilly
Jamie McGinn – Paul Stastny – P.A. Parenteau
The Avs have also called up forward Brad Malone from AHL Lake Erie; the 24-year-old is expected to play on the fourth line with Marc-Andre Cliche and Patrick Bordeleau.
And just to round things out, the third line should feature John Mitchell between Cody McLeod and Max Talbot.
We wondered last week if the Avs could be headed for a reality check; their 4-1 loss to Florida on Saturday was their third straight regulation defeat.
To make matters worse, here’s what’s coming up:
Of note: goalie Semyon Varlamov’s save percentage for November is just .898. That’s well down from the .945 mark he registered in October, when he went 7-1-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average.
Related: Varlamov says his personal life ‘shouldn’t interfere’ with hockey