There’s very little we can learn from NHL exhibition games. Wins and losses don’t matter, the biggest focus for teams needs to be getting ready for the games that count while staying healthy. Unfortunately for the Colorado Avalanche, that didn’t happen last night. In a game that saw superstars Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen make their preseason debut, the Avalanche lost 7-4 to the Vegas Golden Knights but more concerning is the fact that Pavel Francouz left the game with a lower body injury.
According to head coach Jared Bednar, this injury isn’t related to the one that kept Francouz out all of last season but it’s still not a good sign. The Avs were hoping Francouz - who has the potential to be one of the best backups in the NHL - could provide insurance behind new starter Darcy Kuemper. Now, Jonas Johansson will hold the role as the team’s number two netminder as long as Francouz is on the shelf. We don’t know for sure that he’ll miss any significant time but Bednar didn’t sound optimistic after the game. Francouz will be reevaluated over the next few days before any timeline for a return can be set.
As for the game, it was ugly all around. Despite two goals from Mikko Rantanen, he and Nathan MacKinnon looked like two guys who haven't seen game action in months while rookie winger Sampo Ranta showed his inexperience as he had a hard time keeping up with the big guns.
Aside from the Francouz injury, the most alarming part of the game was the defense. Jack Johnson did not look anything close to a player who deserves an NHL contract as he and Dennis Gilbert were absolutely dominated in the Avs zone all night long. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Johnson released from his PTO in the coming days.
One bright spot in the game was the the Avalanche powerplay.. Despite missing their QB, the Avs PP scored three times in four opportunities.
Some good news did come after the game as coach Bednar mentioned that he believes Cale Makar is ready for game action and that we should see the the most electrifying defenseman in the NHL in at least one of the two remaining preseason games.
After the game, the team announced that they have assigned 2021 first round pick Oskar Olausson to the Barrie Colts of the OHL while sending Andreas Wingerli to the Eagles and placing Jordan Gross on waivers with the intention of assigning him to the AHL when he clears. With one week left before the regular season begins, the Avs roster now sits at 35 with more cuts coming after Thursday’s game in Dallas.