Nail Yakupov was laughing and joking with teammates Monday morning, even doing a bit of prancing. At one point, the Russian winger did a “Hans and Franz” muscle pose, drawing guffaws from countryman Semyon Varlamov.
A few nights ago, Yak wasn’t so jovial. He was benched for the entire third period of a Colorado Avalanche loss to St. Louis, his former team. As teammates flew over the bench for shift after shift, Yakupov sat planted like a mulberry bush.
Bad headlines followed, and Yakupov didn’t speak to the media over the weekend. But he took some time out to talk about things with BSN Denver Monday.
“Everything’s going to be new. New day, new lines…I know what I have to do to get better, and I know what I have to do to stay away from those mistakes,” Yakupov said.
While Yakupov wouldn’t go there when asked if he was upset at the public benching, he said he talked things over with coach Jared Bednar and felt good when it was over.
“Life is not perfect. It’s not a perfect world,” Yakupov said. “It’s a team game. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to (allow) goals. But you have to try. If you get beat and you don’t try, you’re going to sit in the stands. You might as well not even show up if you don’t try. But all 82 games are not going to be perfect. But if you’re not going to be working hard, especially in this league, they’re going to find somebody else for your spot.”
Bednar, who will skate Yakupov on a line Tuesday with Matt Duchene and Gabe Landeskog, described the current situation with Yakupov thusly:
“I have high expectations for Yak, just with the way he looked in training camp and the first four or five games of the season. I think there’s been a little dropoff in his play over the last two or three, much like the rest of our team. I don’t want to treat him unfairly. I’ve talked to him about it. I’m looking for him to respond, for sure, and I think he can.”
Duchene, who has skated with Yakupov the whole season so far, was benched for an entire third period once by former coach Joe Sacco. So, he’s been there. But he didn’t feel the need to address anything with his teammate.
“He’s been in the league long enough, he’s gone through stuff; I don’t think I really need to,” Duchene said. “If he wants to talk, I’m always here. But I think for him, and anyone in this game, you’ve got to have a short memory, good and bad. It’s the hardest thing to do. Whenever you have a big night, you can’t sit back and ride on that and when you have a tough thing, you can’t dwell on it. It’ll eat you up.”