Injury news has gone from bad to worse for the Colorado Avalanche as the team found out this morning that they will be without superstar center Nathan MacKinnon for the foreseeable future. Head coach Jared Bednar told the media this morning that MacKinnon is “week-to-week” with a lower body injury while letting it be known that Devon Toews, Erik Johnson, P-E Bellemare, Matt Calvert and Pavel Francouz are all on the same timeline.
With first place in the Western Division on the line, the Avalanche will need to overcome these injuries as they take on the Minnesota Wild tonight in the third game of a four game series.
The Avalanche: (6-3-1)
The Opponent: Minnesota Wild (6-4-0)
Puck Drop: 6:30 PM MT
Watch: NBCSN, Altitude
Listen: Altitude 92.5 FM, AM 950
While the injuries have crippled the Avalanche lineup, one upside is that the coaching staff has decided to pair Bo Byram with Cale Makar. Both former fourth overall picks, Byram and Makar are the future of the Avs blueline and tonight, we will all get a first look at how they play together.
Up front, J.T. Compher has been moved up to fill-in for MacKinnon as the center on the top line. He won’t be asked to drive the offense the way MacKinnon normally does, but his speed could allow the line to play with the same style as they’re used to.
The last time the Avs were without their superstar center, Mikko Rantanen showed the world that he was capable of driving his own line. He will need to do the same now if Colorado has any hopes of keeping pace at the top of the standings.
The team’s second line looks like they have found their stride in recent games. Brandon Saad has seven points in his last four games while has been producing at more than a point per game pace so far this season.
Jacob MacDonald will draw into the lineup for his second game with the Avalanche - fourth NHL game of his career - as the Avalanche can’t fit Greg Pateryn in the lineup due to salary cap constraints.
Gabriel Landeskog - JT Compher - Mikko Rantanen
Brandon Saad - Nazem Kadri - Andre Burakovsky
Valeri Nichushkin - Tyson Jost - Joonas Donskoi
Logan O’Connor - Sheldon Dries - Kiefer Sherwood
Bo Byram - Cale Makar
Sam Girard - Conor Timmins
Ryan Graves - Jacob MacDonald
So far this season, it’s been the youngsters who have carried the offensive load for the Wild. The team’s top three scorers - Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson-Ek and Kirill Kaprizov - are all only 23-years old. Greenway leads the team with 10 points in Minnesota’s first 10 games.
The Wild are dealing with a serious injury of their own as they will be without Matt Dumba again tonight. The all star defender missed the previous game after getting hurt in the first matchup between these two teams last Saturday
Kevin Fiala will be out of the lineup for one more game as he finishes off his three game suspension.
Zach Parise - Nick Bjugstad - Brad Hunt
Marcus Johansson - Joel Eriksson-Ek - Kirill Kaprizov
Jordan Greenway - Nico Sturm - Marcus Foligno
Victor Rask - Nick Bonino - Ryan Hartman
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Carson Soucy
Ian Cole - Brad Hunt
The Avalanche are going to go back to Philipp Grubauer after giving him the night off on Sunday. The Avs net minder is 6-2 on the season with a .930 sv%. Grubauer has been great so far this season and has proven he is more than capable of carrying the load in Colorado.
As for the Wild, Cam Talbot made his return to the lineup Sunday and won his third game of the season. No word yet on who will be starting tonight but he and Kaapo Kahkonen will likely split the two games in Colorado.