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Open Thread: Colorado Avalanche vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (5:00 p.m.)

It’s a Colorado Avalanche gameday, featuring the return of Nathan Mackinnon!

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-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 Maple Leafs team.

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 J.T. 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 as of the publication of this article, but one would assume that Mackinnon would rejoin the top line, while J.T. 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)

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