PITTSBURGH — The one continuous element of the Avalanche’s lineup over the last month has been its third line with center Carl Soderberg and wingers Matt Nieto and Blake Comeau. Most line combinations, defensive pairings and the starting goaltender have often changed, but what began as Colorado’s fourth line is now the team’s most stabilized part of the lineup and logging more time than the second line — a k a The Kid Line — with rookie center Alex Kerfoot and first-year wingers Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher.
Soderberg and company have become the Avs’ primary checking line and taking a good amount of defensive-end faceoffs. In Saturday’s 7-3 win at Florida, the threesome scored two empty-net goals to put the game out of reach. Nieto, who assisted on Erik Johnson‘s goal that gave the Avs a 4-2 lead, had a game-high three points.
“We’ve gained some trust and ability to kind of be a shutdown line,” Nieto said after Monday’s morning skate at PPG Paints Arena. “So, yeah, it’s been going pretty good, and to be rewarded with points in Florida was great.”
The Nathan MacKinnon-centered line has been intact most of the season, but left winger Gabe Landeskog recently missed four games because of an NHL suspension.
Soderberg, 32 and Comeau, 31, are Colorado’s two oldest players. Nieto is 25.
“All three of us keep a lot of pride keeping the puck out of the net,” Comeau said. “We have a lot of defensive-zone starts in other teams’ top lines. It feels like ‘Beds’ (Coach Jared Bednar) trusts us against anyone, especially putting us out in D-zone starts.”
Comeau has played every game for the Avs. But Soderberg was a healthy scratch on opening night and Nieto was an unvoluntary scratch in three of the first four games and five out of the first eight.”
Footnotes. Jonathan Bernier started in goal at Pittsburgh and the Avalanche again went with an 11-forward, seven-defensemen lineup for the third consecutive game. First-year Avs winger Nail Yakupov, the first pick of the 2012 draft, by Edmonton, was scratched for the third consecutive game, but this time because of illness. He was the only player to not participate in Monday’s morning skate. … Defenseman Erik Johnson, who left late in the third period at Florida after blocking a shot, said he’s at full-strength. Goalie Semyon Varlamov, who played the first two games on this four-game trip, will start in Tuesday’s finale at the Washington Capitals.