Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon has done what superstars are expected to do — carry a team through rough patches.
He could have a bit more help when the Avalanche visit the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
MacKinnon has been a stalwart while linemates Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog sat on the injured list. The good news the Avalanche is that the team is starting to get healthy.
Rantanen (lower body) returned to the lineup Saturday, and he has five points in his first two games back. Matt Calvert (concussion) played Wednesday for the first time since Nov. 16, and he notched an assist in Colorado’s 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Now Landeskog and Andre Burakovsky might be ready to make their returns Thursday.
Landeskog missed the past 16 games with a lower-body injury. Burakovsky has sat out three games due to an upper-body injury.
“It’s awesome,” MacKinnon, who has 44 points in 27 games, told reporters at the morning skate on Wednesday. “We’ve had some tough injuries, but it’s so great to see Mikko out there, and I think Gabe is playing soon. Getting Calvert back as fast as we have is surprising but awesome.
“We’re excited. We were such a good team healthy, and we’re excited to get back to that.”
Rantanen a goal and three assists in his return Saturday during a 7-3 win over the visiting Chicago Blackhawks, but he sat out the third period after tweaking his leg and didn’t practice before the trip.
He played Wednesday, helping out with an assist on MacKinnon’s first-period goal.
Colorado has won four in a row, including the opener on the current three-game road trip. The Wednesday victory was a measure of revenge for the Avalanche, who lost at home to the Maple Leafs 5-3 on Nov. 23.
Philipp Grubauer made 38 saves against the Maple Leafs. His backup, Pavel Francouz, is expected to be in net against Montreal.
The Canadiens had the day off after beating the visiting New York Islanders 4-2 on Tuesday to end an eight-game losing streak (0-5-3). Montreal coach Claude Julien tried to keep the team on an even keel through the winless streak.
“When I say remain positive, it’s not about being happy,” Julien said earlier this week. “It’s about telling yourself we’re going to get out of this by doing the right things. And that’s where as a coaching staff you keep your team focused on doing what needs to be done in order to turn things around and not get caught up with all the other stuff that’s going on around us right now.
“I hope that in a month from now we can say that adversity is what made us the team that we are today. I can’t say that right now, but I’m hoping that in a month that’s what’s going to be coming out of our mouths here.”
Goaltending has been an issue for Montreal this season. Carey Price is 11-9-3 with a 3.13 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage. The recently waived Keith Kinkaid was 1-1-3 with a 4.24 GAA and an .875 save percentage in six games (five starts).
Cayden Primeau was promoted from the AHL Laval Rocket to take Kinkaid’s roster spot. The 20-year-old New Jersey native was 7-4-1 with a 2.58 GAA and a .910 save percentage in 12 AHL games this season. He might get a start either Thursday vs. Colorado or Friday when the Canadiens visit the New York Rangers.
“We think Primeau has a great future,” Julien said. “We’re going to see what he brings.”
Montreal made a roster change Wednesday, demoting defenseman Gustav Olofsson to Laval while recalling defenseman Otto Leskinen.
–Field Level Media