For the first time since drafting him #1 overall, the Avalanche will take the ice without their franchise forward Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon will miss the rest of the regular season with a broken foot, and the Avalanche will be forced to soldier on without their top line intact. That's bad news for Avs fans, because the top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O`Reilly, and Nathan MacKinnon has been so productively over the last month, that Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog caught Jarome Iginla for the team lead in points. Now, with Cody McLeod replacing MacKinnon on the right wing, the Avalanche must depend even more on Landeskog and O'Reilly for production if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive (mathematically that is).
The dynamics of this game could be interesting thanks to the NHL's schedule makers. The Columbus Blue Jackets (27-33-4) flew back to Columbus late late night after a 3-2 win in New Jersey. The Colorado Avalanche (28-25-11) are already waiting for them in Ohio, but head straight for Minnesota after the game, and take on the Wild tomorrow night. Fans can likely expect the normal third period fatigue that comes with a back-to-back out of the Blue Jackets, but we may see a distracted Avs team tonight. Roy and the players have publicly delivered all the hockey cliches we've grown up with:
"Just focused on the next game"
"We're not thinking about Minnesota, we just want two points in Columbus"
"We have to take it one game at a time"
But its hard to believe that this Avalanche team, which has been absolutely dominated by the Wild this season, doesn't have their final matchup with the division rivals in the back of their minds as they take the ice tonight.
Update: According to Rick Sadowski at HockeyBuzz, Joey Hishon sustained a neck injury in practice yesterday and it doubtful for tonight's game. If Hishon is unable to play, then Freddie Hamilton will make his Avalanche debut in his stead.
(Author's note: I've demoted the 1st line to the 2nd line because I refuse to acknowledge #55's presence on the 1st line)
Jordan Caron - Matt Duchene - Jarom Iginla
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O`Reilly - Cody McLeod
Alex Tanguay - John Mitchell - Dennis Everberg
Daniel Briere - Joey Hishon/Freddie Hamilton - Marc Andre Cliche
Jan Hejda - Zach Redmond
Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie
Nick Holden - Brad Stuart
Blue Jackets Lines:
Nick Foligno - Ryan Johansen - Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell - Brandon Dubinsky - Alexander Wennberg
Brian Gibbons - Artem Anisimov - Marko Dano
Corey Tropp - Mark Letestu - Jared Boll
Jack Johnson - David Savard
Fedor Tyutin - Cody Goloubef
Justin Falk - Dalton Prout
- Captain Gabriel Landeskog has 12 points in his last 10 games
- Jarome Iginla sits 6 points behind Larry Murphy for 42nd on the all-time points list. He needs 21 goals to catch Jari Kurri for 18th all-time in goals.
- Alex Tanguay needs 7 points to tie Paul Stastny at 4th in Avalanche career points scored.
- Nathan MacKinnon needed just 1 point to tie Tyler Arnason for 27th in points scored as an Av (*shudders)
- Semyon Varlamov needs 3 wins to tie Peter Budaj for 2nd winningest goalie in Avs history.
- And Reto Berra needs 4 wins to tie Calvin Pickard for 13th