SAN JOSE, Calif. - Adapt and push on. Carl Soderberg’s career hinged on his ability to do that, and the Colorado Avalanche will need to do the same.
Though he’s been the Avalanche’s oldest player the past two seasons, Soderberg’s production is trending upward. The 33-year-old appeared in all 82 regular-season games with 49 points and a career-high 23 goals.
A bout of strep throat couldn’t even push him out of the lineup. He said he battled the illness the last couple of games in the first-round Calgary Flames series, but still averaged more than 16 minutes per game after a series-high 22:37 in Game 2 and set up Mikko Rantanen’s overtime winner in Game 4.
He used the week off to relax and recover.
Pushing through adversity is nothing new, and it’s been much worse. The Malmo, Sweden, native is legally blind in one eye after a stick caught him under his visor during the 2006-07 season.
Any kind of vision impairment in a sport where you track a 3-inch puck, where 200-pound bodies are hurtling toward you, sounds disastrous. But after a long recovery and return, Soderberg has carried on. He became an NHL mainstay at 27. He drives himself around.
“Carefully,” he said.
He plays at center, where he keeps his head on a swivel. There’s a lot of looking over your shoulder, he said, and the vision in his other eye eventually compensated.
It also helps that there’s much more shouting on the ice in the NHL than there is in Sweden, where he’s spent the majority of his playing career.
There wasn’t much shouting on the ice during practice on Saturday, even though the Avalanche are behind 1-0 in their Western Conference semifinal series against the San Jose Sharks.
During down times, veterans are often looked to to guide. Soderberg hasn’t felt the need to rally the troops, average age 27.
“We all know what to do,” he said.
The good times weren’t so long ago. The eventual outcome of the Calgary series — four straight wins en route to a Game 5 clinch — is fresh on everyone’s minds, Soderberg said.
The Avalanche will have to limit what goaltender Philipp Grubauer called “almost lazy mistakes,” turning over pucks and losing battles at a rate unseen since the last series opener.
“I liked a lot of the things we did yesterday. I liked a lot of our players. I just didn’t love a lot of our guys,” coach Jared Bednar said.
“I think we all have another step we can take in order to get back to where we were last series, and where we’re going to need to be in this series in order to win.”