The Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets were in the news Friday, but not for what they’re doing this season. The NHL announced that the two teams will play two regular-season games against each other in Helsinki, Finland, next year as part of the 2020 NHL Global Series.
It’s the second time in four seasons Colorado will play regular-season games in Europe. The Avalanche had a two-game set with Ottawa in Sweden in 2017 — the Sens’ first two games after acquiring Matt Duchene from Colorado.
Of more immediate concern is the Blues’ and Avalanche’s matchup Saturday night in Denver, when both teams will try to build on the momentum of ending five-game losing streaks Thursday night.
The Blue Jackets beat Arizona to open a three-game road trip, while Colorado opened a two-game homestand with a win over Nashville thanks to a stunning second period. The Avalanche’s win came with a price, however, as yet another key player is likely going to miss time with an injury.
Colorado’s 9-4 win over the Predators came on the strength of a six-goal burst in an eight-minute stretch of the second period. But the bad news in that frame is that defenseman Nikita Zadorov suffered a serious injury when he took a puck to the face.
He won’t play Saturday night when the Avalanche wrap up the quick two-game homestand before heading out for a five-game road trip. Colorado is already without forwards Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Colin Wilson, as well as goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
The team’s depth has been tested, and it will be again.
“We have a lot of depth in this locker room,” forward Joonas Donskoi told reporters after his hat trick against Nashville. “We were stuck a little after losing Landy and Mikko and Wilson, too.”
There was a sigh of relief when leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon was back on the ice Friday. He sat out Thursday’s third period with what was announced as an upper-body injury. Coach Jared Bednar said it was precautionary move, and Colorado’s five-goal lead made the decision easier.
Bednar said Friday that for now he plans on having six defensemen but the team could call up one from the AHL before the road trip.
The Blue Jackets, like the Avalanche, were on an 0-4-1 skid before Thursday but held on to beat the Coyotes 3-2 in Arizona. It was a little intense at the end but Columbus kept its one-goal lead to the final buzzer.
“It’s good for them to get a result,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said after the game. “There’s been some games this year when we didn’t.”
But Columbus isn’t immune from injuries, either.
The Blue Jackets are without defenseman Ryan Murray (broken hand) for at least a couple of more weeks, while the Avalanche are hoping to get Rantanen back soon. He suffered a lower-body injury three weeks ago and Colorado has gone 2-4-2 in his absence.
Landeskog, the team’s captain and linemate of Rantanen’s, is going to miss significant time with a lower leg injury.
–Field Level Media