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Colorado Avalanche Gameday: Nathan Mackinnon returns to face Toronto

The Avalanche finally get the engine of their attack back.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

After surging through the month of September, the Colorado Avalanche have come back to Earth a bit as they have lost two straight. Their last game against the Los Angeles Kings should have netted them two points, but some sloppy play early and a blown third-period lead cost the Avs an additional point.

Colorado got some of the best news of the season today, as Nathan Mackinnon was activated off injured reserve. The Avs sent Charles Hudon back down to the Colorado Eagles to make room for Mackinnon, and presumably, he will reclaim his spot on the top line tonight against a very dangerous Toronto team.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avs have simplified their game without Mackinnon, as they have eschewed their up-and-down fast-break style for a more reserved and defensively responsible game, so it should be interesting to see how they adjust with the engine of their attack back. One of the main reasons why they were forced to tweak their style of play was the absence of Mackinnon, as it forced players like J.T. Compher into larger roles than they were used to. Expecting Compher to play like Nathan Mackinnon is unreasonable, and it should be interesting to see how the Avalanche style changes tonight now that Mackinnon will push players like Compher back into their typical roles.

Yesterday on our podcast, Mile High Hockey Lab, we talked about Colorado’s slow starts throughout this past month, and how missing Mackinnon was a big reason why the Avs started behind the eight ball so often. Mackinnon is one of the most intense players on the planet, and his fire is just what this team needs to get off to a good start against an extremely good Toronto team. No lines have been announced yet, but one would assume that Mackinnon would rejoin the top line, while Compher could rejoin Andrew Cogliano and Logan O’Connor on the last line Jared Bednar broke up throughout this brutal injury stretch.

Projected Lineup

Artturi Lehkonen (62) - Nathan Mackinnon (29) - Mikko Rantanen (96)
Alex Newhook (18) - Evan Rodrigues (9) - Denis Malgin (81)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - J.T. Compher (37) - Logan O’Connor (25)
Kurtis MacDermid (56) - Ben Meyers (59) - Jacob MacDonald (26)

Cale Makar (8) - Devon Toews (7)
Sam Girard (49) - Erik Johnson (6)
Andreas Englund (88) - Brad Hunt (17)

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs are one of the best teams in the NHL, winning seven out of their last 10 games, but all three losses have come in their last six games, including one against Arizona who seemingly cannot beat anyone except for the league’s best teams these past couple of years. The one big difference with Toronto this year is their defense. They’ve gained a reputation for being the league’s most dangerous goal-scoring team, but this year they are winning with defense, only allowing 92 goals on the year which is good for third in the NHL behind the Boston Bruins (78 goals allowed) and Carolina Hurricanes (90 goals allowed).

That said, this is still as dangerous of an offensive team as you’ll find in the NHL, led by super-duper star Auston Matthews and Toronto’s leading goal-scorer William Nylander (his 21 goals are tied with Leon Draisaitl for ninth in the NHL). Colorado will also see a few familiar faces tonight, as Alex Kerfoot, Dryden Hunt, and Conor Timmins are expected to suit up for the Maple Leafs.

Projected Lineup

Michael Bunting (58) - Auston Matthews (34) - William Nylander (88)
Calle Järnkrok (19) - John Tavares (91) - Mitch Marner (16)
Alex Kerfoot (15) - David Kämpf (64) - Pierre Engvall (47)
Zach Aston-Reese (12) - Pontus Holmberg (29) - Dryden Hunt (20)

Mark Giordano (55) - Justin Holl (3)
Morgan Rielly (44) - Timothy Liljegren (37)
TJ Brodie (78) - Conor Timmins (25)


Alexandar Georgiev should get the nod for Colorado, while Toronto’s goaltender is far less certain. They have been giving equal time to both Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray the past month, as both have played effectively enough to make it a 1A and 1B situation in net for the Maple Leafs, but as of late both have been shaky enough to activate the Toronto media’s hot take industry, so it’s anyone’s guess who they will turn to tonight.