Carl Soderberg “outstanding” in first game back with Avalanche

Soft-spoken Carl Soderberg made a thunderous return to the Avalanche on Wednesday in St. Louis.

Soderberg, who was re-acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks ahead of Monday’s trade deadline, didn’t produce a shot and lost his only faceoff but was nevertheless lauded for his performance in a gutsy 4-3 win against the Blues.

“I loved his game. I thought he was outstanding,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said of the 35-year-old Swede.

Soderberg, a Colorado center for four seasons until the club traded him to Arizona in the 2019 offseason, stepped in on the Avs’ second line, playing left wing with center Nazem Kadri and right wing Andre Burakovsky. Soderberg logged 15:02, including 1:20 on the penalty kill.

“That line was really good right out of the gate for us,” Bednar said. “(Soderberg) was making plays. He was on pucks. He was skating real well for us. It’s not going to take me long to get him mixed back into the group (because), as you saw today, he was playing on our second line, he was playing penalty kill, important defensive situations. The way he was moving out there, I really liked what he brought to us. Great piece, great add by (general manager) Joe (Sakic).”

Soderberg replaced winger Joonas Donskoi in the lineup. Donskoi, a member of the Avs’ top power-play unit, was among a group of players on the team who weren’t feeling well after the team administered COVID vaccinations. Donskoi is expected to return Friday as Colorado begins a two-game set against the Los Angeles Kings at Ball Arena.

Soderberg is a natural center but can play any forward position in the lineup. He adds depth to an already deep core of forwards, although Matt Calvert and Logan O’Connor could remain on the injured list long-term.

Soderberg said he learned of Monday’s trade after Chicago’s morning skate at Columbus. He gathered his belongings and drove to St. Louis to rejoin the Avs.

“It was a great feeling meeting some old friends. Super excited,” Soderberg said. “I had a great time in Chicago but I could kind of tell they were going to trade me so it wasn’t a surprise. When I heard it was the Avalanche I got very excited.”

Part of his excitement stemmed from the fact that he’s now with a Stanley Cup-contending team and he knows the proverbial playbook.

“I know the systems,” he said.

Goalie Devan Dubnyk, another trade-deadline acquisition (from San Jose), made 31 saves Wednesday in his Avalanche debut and might also start Friday against the Kings. The Avs didn’t have practice or have media availability Thursday.

No. 1 goalie Philipp Grubauer will remain unavailable after his positive COVID test Tuesday. He will quarantine for 10 days and then have to test negative multiple times before returning to team facilities no earlier than 14 days since his positive test. Grubauer might only be available to play in Colorado’s final four regular-season games beginning May 3 at San Jose.

So Dubnyk could play the majority of the next nine games.

“I’m planning on these coming a little more frequently,” Dubnyk said of his first win with the Avs. “When you have a team like this that actively comes to pick you up, to be part of one of the best teams in the league, it feels really good. I just want to come here and have some fun with these guys and contribute whenever I’m asked.”

Footnotes. The league-leading Avs (30-9-4, 64 points) are 9-1-0 in their last 10 games and 21-3-3 since Feb. 26. Colorado is 7-1-0 this month. … Avs star center Nathan MacKinnon is on an NHL-leading 11-game points streak and tied for fourth in league scoring with 53 points (17 goals). He leads all NHL forwards in plus-minus (plus-26), which is second in the league behind Montreal defenseman Joe Edmundson (plus-28).

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