Russians Varlamov, Yakupov Could Figure Big In Avs’ Revival

COLORADO AVALANCHE

LAST SEASON: 22-56-4, 48 points.

COACH: Jared Bednar (second season, second NHL season).

ADDED: F Alexander Kerfoot, RW Nail Yakupov, F Colin Wilson, F Dominic Toninato, G Jonathan Bernier.

LOST: F Mikhail Grigorenko, D Francois Beauchemin, D Fedor Tyutin, F John Mitchell, G Calvin Pickard, F Rene Bourque, D Patrick Wiercioch.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Yakupov. The 23-year-old Russian was the No. 1 pick by Edmonton in 2012 and was traded to St. Louis before last season. He had three goals and six assists in 40 games for the Blues. Colorado brought him in on a one-year deal. “I was really happy some teams wanted me, especially Colorado,” Yakupov said on the team’s website. “I’ll be happy to wear this jersey and play every game.”

OUTLOOK: The Avs are hitting the reset button following a season in which they had just 48 points. The Matt Duchene situation still hangs overhead — his name has been the subject of trade rumors — but the team doesn’t think it will be a distraction. They have plenty of scoring punch with players such as captain Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Jost, Mikko Rantanen and Duchene.

Goaltender Semyon Varlamov also is healthy after being limited to 24 games due to a nagging groin injury that he’s hoping was alleviated through hip surgery. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to let go of last year — get our swagger back as a group,” Landeskog said.
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For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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