Banged-up Avs brace for visit from Zibanejad, Rangers

NHL
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The injuries have mounted for the Colorado Avalanche, but so have the wins.

One of the most resilient teams in the NHL this season, Colorado has stayed in the hunt for the Central Division title and the top seed in the Western Conference despite the number of man games lost to injury.

The drive to the postseason continues Wednesday night against the New York Rangers, who are coming off a 4-2 win in Dallas on Tuesday night.

Part of the reason for the Avalanche’s success is that leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon hasn’t missed a game. He has carried the team through rough patches, but now Colorado may have to face the stretch run without him.

MacKinnon, who has 35 goals and 58 assists, sustained a lower-body injury in the second period of the Avalanche’s 3-1 road loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, and he didn’t return.

Colorado didn’t practice Tuesday, so there was no update on MacKinnon’s status, but coach Jared Bednar said after the Monday game he was hopeful MacKinnon’s injury was minor, and then reiterated that Tuesday morning.

“It may not be that serious,” Bednar said during his weekly interview with Altitude Sports Radio. “That’s what we’re hoping for, but he’s going to be checked out, and obviously we have to see what he feels like today.

“We have a lot of guys that are kind of battling those little injuries right now. It’s that time of year, you look at the schedule and the amount of games we’re playing, we’ve been trying to give them as much rest as we possibly can, just go game days only, day off in between. Especially with all the injuries we have we’re just trying to manage everyone’s minutes and give them as much rest as possible.

“Injuries are starting to pile up, so hopefully we’re going to get some guys back here this week.”

The Avalanche (41-20-8, 90 points) have been without forwards Mikko Rantanen (upper body), Nazem Kadri (lower body), Andre Burakovsky (lower body), Matt Calvert (lower body) and Colin Wilson (lower body) along with defenseman Cale Makar (upper body) and goalie Philipp Grubauer (lower body) for an extended time. The team hasn’t announced when any one of them will be ready.

If MacKinnon joins the rest on the sideline, it will be tough to beat a Rangers team on the upswing, especially when they are on the road. New York (37-28-4, 78 points) has won 10 of its past 11 away from Madison Square Garden.

New York is three points behind Columbus for the second Eastern Conference wild card but has played one fewer games than the Blue Jackets. The win over the Stars on Tuesday was just the Rangers’ second in six games overall on the heels of winning nine of the previous 10.

Rangers coach David Quinn has said playing better defensively will make a big difference, as will playing a complete game.

“We just have to be a little more thorough. We’ve got to get back to being thorough all the time,” Quinn said before the start of the road trip. “It can’t be 53 minutes, it can’t be 58 minutes. It’s got to be shift in and shift out.”

One Rangers player who is delivering nightly is Mika Zibanejad. The center scored a goal at Dallas, giving him 16 goals in his past 12 games. He is the second player in franchise history to notch goals in 11 games during a 12-game span, joining Andy Bathgate (1962-63).

He also reached 40 goals for the season on Tuesday in his 56th game, the fastest in Rangers history to hit that level. The old mark was 57 games, set by Jean Ratelle in 1971-72.

New York rookie Kaapo Kakko also contributed two goals Tuesday, ending a 14-game goal drought.

“After a long time, of course, it was a good feeling,” Kakko said, according to Newsday. “A couple of great passes, and easy job for me.”

–Field Level Media

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