Avalanche center Nazem Kadri feels confident that he has not lost the support and trust from his teammates, despite his costly eight-game suspension during the Stanley Cup Playoffs in May.
Without him, the Avs finished 0-4 and were eliminated in the second round for the third consecutive season.
“Not one bit. Not one bit,” Kadri said Monday as Colorado concluded its five-day training camp. “They understand who I am as a person and what kind of character I have. I’d like to think I have everyone’s respect in that locker room and I’m sure they all say the same thing. They understand that I’m a competitive guy and I’m going to go out there and do what I got to do, and I’m going to play hard and I’m going to show up every night.”
Kadri was issued his sixth multiple-game NHL suspension, and first with the Avs, on May 21 — two days after delivering a dangerous and illegal check in Game 2 of a first-round series against St. Louis at Ball Arena. Kadri said his intent was to legally check Blues defenseman Justin Faulk, who was attempting to shoot in a scoring area. Kadri’s right shoulder caught Faulk in the head, and Faulk suffered a concussion.
“I tried to make a responsible defensive play,” Kadri said. “A lot of things could have gone wrong if he jumps by me and scores. So, obviously, it wasn’t my intent to injure at all. I’m trying to step up and prevent him from getting to the net. It happened so quickly and, thankfully, he’s all right and we’re just looking to move on.”
Kadri appealed the suspension in the hope it would be reduced, but it was denied by an independent arbitrator.
“Obviously, I strongly disagree, but what are you going to do?” Kadri said.
Kadri is beginning his third season with the Avs. In his first nine seasons in the league, all with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kadri was suspended five times: Three games for interference (November 2013), four for an illegal check to the head (March 2015), four for cross checking (April 2016), three for boarding (April 2018), and five for a cross check (April 2019).
“I’m kind of used to that situation by now,” Kadri said. “There’s some consequences that go with playing hard and playing feisty. Obviously, I’m a skilled player as well so I’m not just looking to go out there and just play a physical-style game. I enjoy scoring, I enjoy playing on the power play. All that stuff (criticism) is really white noise. I try not to concentrate on it so much and just worry about how I can help this team — and I know I can, for sure.”
Right winger Mikko Rantanen and coach Jared Bednar said the team fully supports Kadri.
“There’s no trust issues,” Rantanen said. “It (stinks) for him that he was out most of the playoffs but he’s a veteran guy and, for sure, he learned what he (did) and I really don’t need to tell him what to do because he’s a veteran guy and he’s gonna get over it for sure.”
“I judge Naz on what he’s done with us. And I think our guys do, too,” Bednar said. “We missed him at an important time. We could have really used him. It hurt for sure. But I’ve seen Naz grow up and try to be real intentional about what he does and try to stay disciplined. Everyone loses their cool here and there but to me, he didn’t just go do something dumb. He just missed his check by a couple inches.
“He’ll have to continue to prove that to the group but that’s a one-time thing over two years and it just came in a real bad time for us.”
Footnotes. The Avs wrapped up training camp with a heavy emphasis on the power play. Bednar put together four units, and the top two looked familiar. Cale Makar ran the main one from the high slot with Nathan Mackinnon and Mikko Rantanen on the wings, Gabe Landeskog as the crease presence and J.T. Compher as the bumper man. Compher is replacing Joonas Donskoi, who was lost to Seattle in the expansion draft. The second-session main unit featured Sam Girard up top with forwards Andre Burakovsky, Nazem Kadri, Valeri Nichushkin and newcomer Mikhail Maltsev, the latter of whom is replacing free-agent departure Brandon Saad. … Makar was no longer wearing his red non-contact jersey on Monday and is cleared for all drills.