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Colorado Avalanche Game Day: Return of the Mack...hopefully...

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The Colorado Avalanche hope to have their superstar back int he lineup when they take on the Arizona Coyotes tonight

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Arizona Coyotes Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche: 13-8-2
Arizona Coyotes: 12-10-3
Puck Drop: 7:00 p.m. MT
Watch: Altitude, FS-A
Listen: Altitude 92.5, AM 950

The good news is that Colorado Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon was a full participant in practice yesterday and is expected to be back in the lineup tonight. The bad news is that the last time this happened, MacKinnon was a late scratch and missed the next week of games.

With or without MacKinnon, the Avalanche head into tonight’s game looking to avenge the 3-2 loss they suffered at the hands of the Arizona Monday night. A regulation win fo the Coyotes would pull them into a tie with the Avs for fourth place in the West Division.

Colorado Avalanche

For now, it is expected that the Avalanche will have their best player back in the lineup tonight. The simple presence of Nathan MacKinnon drastically changes what the Avalanche are as a team. He brings a level of danger to every shift that just can’t be replicated.

Even with MacKinnon out of the lineup, the Avalanche were still able to outshoot Arizona 35-14 in the loss Monday night. They were the better team and will hope to replicate that performance again tonight.

Compher, Timmins, Byram, Makar, Johnson and Francouz are all still out of the lineup with injuries.

Projected Lines

Forwards

Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Brandon Saad – Nazem Kadri– Andre Burakovsky
Joonas Donskoi – Tyson Jost - Valeri Nichushkin
Logan O’Connor - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare –Matt Calvert

Defense

Devon Toews – Ryan Graves
Jacob MacDonald - Samuel Girard
Daniel Renouf - Greg Pataryn

Arizona Coyotes

Despite only registering 14 shots on net Monday night, the Coyotes were able to put three goals past Philipp Grubauer. Clayton Keller led the way with two assist while Jakob Chychrun scored his seventh goal of the season - good enough for third among defensemen.

The Coyotes proved last game that they are willing to sit back and let the play come to them. That could be a dangerous plan with one of the most dynamic offensive players in the game returning for their opponants tonight.

Projected Lines

Forwards

Clayton Keller — Nick Schmaltz — Conor Garland
Lawson Crouse — Christian Dvorak — Tyler Pitlick
Drake Caggiula — Derick Brassard — Phil Kessel
Christian Fischer — Frederik Gauthier — Johan Larsson

Defense

Oliver Ekman-Larsson — Ilya Lyubushkin
Jakob Chychrun — Alex Goligoski
Jordan Oesterle — Niklas Hjalmarsson

Goaltenders

Darcy Kuemper
Antti Raanta

Starting Goalies

Once again, the Avalanche will have Philip Grubauer in net tonight. He has been between the pipes for 19 of Colorado’s 23 games thus far and is sporting a .917 sv%. The workload for Grubauer is getting concerning, so if Pavel Francouz is expected to remain out of the lineup, Joe Sakic might be forced to swing a trade for a veteran backup sooner rather than later.

With Darcy Kuemper ruled out for “weeks”, the net in Arizona is going to be Antti Raanta’s for the foreseeable future. The veteran netminder enters tonight’s game with a 4-2-1 record and a .903 sv%.