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Colorado Avalanche injury update as NHL enters Phase 2

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Training facilities across the NHL open today as the league prepares to return to play

NHL Stadium Series Avalanche vs Kings
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - FEBRUARY 15: Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer (31) has to came out of the game against Los Angeles Kings in the third period due to an injury during the NHL Stadium Series at Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy February 15, 2020.
Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Announcements have been coming in steady succession as the NHL moves closer to being able to restart the 2020 postseason. As of Monday June 8th, it’s been 89 days since the Colorado Avalanche last played a game, a 3-2 overtime win over the New York Rangers on March 11th. It’s been almost three months, or 12 weeks, since hockey stopped.

During that time, both a lot, and nothing, has happened in the world of sport. Lots of speculation and work behind the scenes to find ways to make hockey work during a pandemic.

Last week, the NHL announced plans for their Phase 2 Return to Play Protocol that is scheduled to start today, which will work to bring players back to their team cities from wherever they were social distancing and back into training facilities. Instructions for maintaining the health and safety of the players and staff was at the forefront of this announcement that will hopefully begin to be rolled out in June.

Linked below are two really great summaries of the initial memo sent by the NHL outlining the rules of their return. You can find the full 22-page memo linked here.

So after months of nothing but Bundesliga and Korean baseball, it seems like the NHL finally has a plan to start back up. The league is going to look a lot different after all this time off; rust and other variables that are going to bring in a significant amount of randomness to an otherwise very random playoff tournament. But what might be more important is the fact that every one of the 24 teams should be fully healthy once they are allowed to play games again.

For the Avalanche, that means getting a fully recuperated Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Nazem Kadri to name but a few. With everyone coming back, I thought it would be interesting to see how healthy everyone should be (I have no insider information on their statuses) and then look at potential rosters.

Ryan S. Clark also has a really good post on this at The Athletic (that I didn’t notice until I was already well into my article). He goes through the lines, outlining their strengths and weaknesses.

Injury Updates

Colin Wilson: Lower-Body Injury, surgery, Oct 26th

Wilson has been out since the first month of the season after getting surgery done on an unspecified lower body injury. It’s a tough situation for Wilson, who hasn’t played competitive hockey in what could end up being nine months. Conor Timmins needed a year away due to his injury and he needed time to be fully back. The forward is a pending-UFA and on the wrong side of 30, so getting a decent contract for next season will be difficult. With the cap likely staying flat, it’s going to be even harder.

Wilson has a family and a cute dog at home, he could also make the argument that staying safe, healthy, and rehabbing is the best thing for him. If that’s the case, there’s a spot on the team that would’ve otherwise been taken.

Nazem Kadri: Lower-Body Injury, 4-6 weeks, Feb 9th

Kadri was the first snowball in the massive injury avalanche that fell on Colorado in February (not that he caused it, this is a bad analogy). He’s mentioned in multiple interviews during the lockdown that he’s ready and anxious to get back. Having him back on the second line is going to be invaluable in the playoffs. And no, I don’t think he’s going to get suspended.

Philipp Grubauer: Lower-Body Injury, “multiple weeks”, Feb 15th

Grubby was ready to return just as the NHL suspended the season. He had spent spent the better part of four weeks healing from his LBI and training to get back into game shape. If backup Pavel Francouz hadn’t been lights out during his interim time as the starter, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Grubauer didn’t come back earlier.

Now 14 weeks since his last game, rust is probably going to be the biggest thing holding Grubauer back when things return. Getting in as much game simulation on and off the ice before and during training camp will be crucial for him.

Matt Calvert: Lower-Body Injury, “multiple weeks”, Feb 15th

Calvert has had two this season that have kept him out for a while. The first being the puck to the head, which feels like eons ago. The second was his collision with Grubauer in the Stadium Series game (which also feels like eons ago).

Calvert was skating with the team on March 1th, the morning of the last game against the Rangers. He was only supposed to be out for about a month, so his return seems pretty undeniable by now.

Mikko Rantanen: Upper-Body Injury, “weeks”, Feb 17th

Rantanen also joined Calvert, Kadri, and Grubauer on the ice the day before the NHL shut down, meaning his UBI (collarbone?) was mostly healed. The injury-riddled 23-year-old was on pace for 80 points. Having him back on the top line with MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog is going to be long overdue.

Andre Burakovsky: Lower-Body Injury, “indefinitely”, Feb 21th

Burakovsky was having an amazing season when he went down with his LBI in mid/late February. He missed a few games, tried to come back against Carolina at the end of the month, but suffered a setback and was out until the season was cut short. Fortunately, he was among that group that skated with the team in mid-March.

Burakovsky has become a crucial complimentary winger in the top-nine, playing everywhere and scoring at a pace of 28 goals and 63 assists.

Nathan MacKinnon: Lower-Body Injury, 1-2 weeks, Mar 11th

MacKinnon was healthy all year...until the second last game of the season. There should be no worries at all about his status after eight weeks at home. Have a look for yourself, he’s already skating with Sidney Crosby and Brad Ma- OH NO! GET OUT OF THERE, NATE! DON’T LET HIM LICK YOU!

Three Avs who tested positive for COVID-19, Mar 28th

In the weeks following the Avalanche vs. Rangers game, one unnamed Colorado Avalanche player tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, contracted symptoms, isolated, and later recovered from the illness. Another two players tested positive and remained in isolation for two weeks.

It is yet unknown what kind of respiratory or other effects this virus will have on their bodies long-term, but hopefully they are okay and fit to play.

Potential Lineup

Forwards

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Andre Burakovsky - Nazem Kadri - Joonas Donskoi
Tyson Jost - JT Compher - Vladislav Namestnikov
Matt Nieto - PE Bellemare - Valeri Nichushkin
Extras: Matt Calvert, Colin Wilson, Vladislav Kamenev, Sheldon Dries, Logan O’Connor, Martin Kaut, Shane Bowers

Defense

Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ryan Graves - Cale Makar
Ian Cole - Nikita Zadorov
Extras: Mark Barberio, Kevin Connauton, Conor Timmins, Bowen Byram, Jacob MacDonald, Josh Anderson

Goalies

Philipp Grubauer
Pavel Francouz
Michael Hutchinson

Long story short, the Avalanche should be fully healthy once the NHL is ready to return in August. That’ll be great news for the young team that finished second in the Western Conference and has a chance to be a top seed once the playoffs officially begin.