(Winnipeg) It’s not easy to interview a player when the only window to talk to him is after a game and his team loses said game 6-2, as the Colorado Avalanche did on Saturday against the Jets.

However, we arrived with a piece of information that was enough to make Jonathan Drouin smile: the evening of two goals from his good friend Josh Anderson, two provinces away.

” Good ! I’m happy for him ! », Spontaneously told La Presse, sitting at his locker. “We were just texting each other last week. I went through there last year. I just told him not to give up, to keep working. It’s hard to be a cheerleader at our age. But when I have time, I watch a few games, and he had chances to score. When you don’t have chances, it can be discouraging. It was going to come in eventually. »

Drouin has also experienced his dry spells since arriving in Denver. He scored his first goal in his 12th game of the season and was even left behind twice during that stretch.

“The points are not where I want, nor are the goals, but the chances are there, like Andy [Josh Anderson],” he believes.

Except that Drouin’s status has changed radically in the space of a few weeks. In Montreal, he carried a triple burden: being a local player; having been obtained in a major transaction; holding a $5.5 million contract under payroll.

All three of these realities have changed in Denver. He’s just another player, his salary is down to $825,000 and he joined the Avalanche as a free agent.

For all these reasons, Drouin’s existence is more peaceful. A quick search of the Denver Post turns up five articles with his name in the headline, in the five months since he arrived there. On The Athletic, the name “Drouin” appears in just three headlines since this summer, including one in a hockey pool advice article.

But Drouin sees one more factor explaining his new tranquility. “There’s something else going on in Denver. There is football, baseball. The Broncos are doing well. It’s not just hockey that’s happening. »

And added: “It feels good. »

At the time we spoke with Drouin, the Broncos were facing the Detroit Lions, while the Nuggets were facing the Oklahoma City Thunder. “I have a feeling a lot of fans in Denver will be watching hockey highlights on our site tomorrow morning! “, joked a colleague from Colorado on the bridge during the match.

Obviously, not everything is perfect. The Avalanche are currently going through a more difficult stretch with a record of 3-4-2 in their last nine outings. Drouin sees his use fluctuate depending on his performance. Jared Bednar sent him to the bridge twice, but on December 7, he used him for 25 minutes, a career high for Drouin in the NHL. “I’m getting old enough, it’s my 10th year, I know you live day by day,” he philosophized.

It was also on the power play that Drouin scored, recovering a puck near the blue paint, and after putting his nose in traffic a few times during this presence, trying to deflect a puck. “On this goal, he rushed near the net and got a favorable jump from the boards,” Bednar noted. He is an intelligent player who goes to the right places and distributes the puck well. »

Despite their recent streak, the Avalanche are 18-10-2 and would make the playoffs if they start this weekend.

“That sounds pretty much like what I expected. It’s even a little better, believes Drouin. The guys are hungry, they want to win, they experienced it two years ago. They know the feeling of winning. The new ones were well integrated. The coach is good. »

We understand that this is a 180 degree turn compared to the CH of the last two years.

Speaking of talent, he reconnected with Nathan MacKinnon, his former Mooseheads teammate. They even have their little ritual at the very end of the warm-up, when there are only the two of them left on the ice. Drouin takes half a dozen washers and passes them to number 29, who unscrews them one after the other. “It started a few weeks ago, he wanted a few one-timers before starting the match and he asked me to pass him. »

He obviously never played with anyone of MacKinnon’s level during his six years in Montreal. But the same can be said of any player who didn’t have MacKinnon, Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Jack Hughes or Auston Matthews as teammates.

The fact remains that Drouin misses certain things that were once part of his daily life. “What I miss is the Bell Centre. It’s such a special place to play. That, and the relationships with certain teammates. Even though we earned less in recent years, you build great relationships. I miss that, the Bell Center, but not the high snow banks! »