There is a reason 33-year-old Carl Soderberg is playing the best hockey of his NHL career.
The Avalanche second-line center tipped the puck past Los Angelesw Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick in the first period Saturday. It opened the floodgates for a 7-1 victory and notched Soderberg’s 16th goal of the season, tying a career high set last year. Soderberg now has 34 more games to extend it starting Monday against the Nashville Predators at the Pepsi Center.
Soderberg, the Avs’ oldest player, is a decade-plus ahead of teammates like defenseman Sam Girard (20) and winger Mikko Rantanen (22). You could never tell that watching Soderberg skate, since the calendar turned to January with seven points — five goals and two assists — over his past six outings.
“I don’t have that many years left (in the NHL),” Soderberg said, “so I try to enjoy every game.”
The Blues drafted Soderberg in 2004 in the second round, but he didn’t debut in the NHL until 2013 at age 27 with the Bruins. The Avs acquired Soderberg via trade three years later, and he amassed a career-high 51 points for Colorado in the 2015-16 season. But Soderberg’s signature moment arrived last week in Toronto when he recorded his first NHL hat trick.
“All season he’s been producing, but especially the last handful of weeks,” winger Gabe Landeskog said. “He’s been one of our most consistent players and stepping up big when we need it.”
Soderberg’s impact extends well beyond scoring. He sparked a second-period breakaway Saturday and made a lead pass to streaking defenseman Colin Wilson for the Avs’ seventh score of the afternoon. And, with a 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame, Soderberg can be an intimidating presence on the ice.
“His intensity has been awesome,” defenseman Tyson Barrie said. “He’s been skating well, and he’s been a big driving force for us the last little bit. We’ve got to kind of build off his energy. He’s been one of the guys who has been bringing it every night. That’s been awesome. Hopefully we can all rally, get everybody going and be a dangerous team.”
Added coach Jared Bednar, on Soderberg: “He’s winning races, and he’s winning battles. So that allows him to play on the right side of the puck a lot.”
The flip side to Soderberg’s recent surge is a humble media presence. Don’t expect the Sweden native to boast. He’ll admit these past two seasons in Colorado have been the best of his career, but it’s a single-game focus with the Avs fighting to remain in the playoff picture.
“I think I’ve been playing pretty well lately,” Soderberg said. “I’ll just try to keep that up.”
Injury update. Rantanen and defenseman Erik Johnson left the Kings game Saturday with injuries. Johnson suffered a concussion in the first period, Bednar told reporters Sunday, and is hopeful to return after the all-star break. Rantanen, who dealt with a minor lower-body injury in the third period, returned to practice Sunday and is expected to play against the Predators.
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