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Nathan MacKinnon is back

AJ Haefele Avatar
February 17, 2018

The news of the day at Colorado Avalanche practice was Nathan MacKinnon resuming his normal assignment between Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen as he took part in his first full team practice since suffering an upper-body injury against the Vancouver Canucks on January 30.

MacKinnon’s return comes after an eight-game absence that saw the Avalanche go a respectable 4-4 in that time, staying afloat in the highly-competitive Western Conference playoff race. Colorado currently sits three points behind the Minnesota Wild for the final playoff spot.

In coming back from injury, MacKinnon was quick to say he wasn’t suffering any lingering effects of the injury and he’s anxious to get back out on the ice.

“100%, I feel good,” MacKinnon said. “The trainers did a great job getting me ready, getting me healed up quickly and I’m feeling good.”

As the team managed a .500 record while he was out, it gives him a chance to be the difference-maker upon his return.

“I’ll try to do my job, play how I was playing when I was healthy and obviously with Gabe and Mikko they help me a lot hopefully we can find some chemistry right away.”

With his return to the top line, he looks to kickstart a group that has struggled to consistently generate offense without him. In fact, Landeskog and Rantanen managed just one goal, Rantanen’s wraparound last night long after the game had already been decided, in the eight games without MacKinnon. Despite their struggles, Colorado’s top center isn’t worried about it taking time to adjust back to his linemates.

“We were one of the best lines in the NHL all season. We’re confident. Gabe and Mikko are very special players and I’m excited to join them.”

He admitted to being a bit rusty through the process but wasn’t looking to come back too quickly with the threat of re-injuring himself and having to miss any more of the team’s final 25 games.

“I’ve just been trying to gauge how I was feeling. The last week has been day-to-day. I didn’t want to rush it too much but at the same time, there’s definitely some urgency to get back in the lineup. I want to help my teammates. The last week has been definitely challenging. My fitness is really good and I feel healthy. I’m excited to play tomorrow.”

Because the nature of his injury, MacKinnon has been able to keep himself relatively close to game shape as he’s been skating consistently, adding he has skated 12 times in the last 13 days. Back out there with his teammates today, he was able to remove the awkwardness of skating on his own.

“It’s nice to be with the team. It’s tough…even yesterday, I was just here by myself and there was 200 people here watching my bag skate. That gets old.”

The Avalanche are hoping what is old becomes new again as MacKinnon looks to recapture the prolific scoring pace that had placed him firmly among the league leaders and in the thick of the Hart Trophy race, given annually to the league’s MVP.

Practice Notes

– With MacKinnon resuming his place on his old there, there was quite a bit of lineup shuffling taking place. The lines today were:

Landeskog – MacKinnon – Rantanen
Nieto – Soderberg – Comeau
Kerfoot – Compher – Wilson
Bourque – Jost – Yakupov – Greer – Toninato (the players rotated regularly)

– Jonathan Bernier did not practice today and is going through concussion protocol. He was injured in last night’s game against the Jets and did not play in the third period. Andrew Hammond has been called up from Belleville and will be Semyon Varlamov’s backup tomorrow against the Edmonton Oilers.

– As the players came off the ice into the locker room, the TV was showing a replay of the men’s hockey game between the United States and the Olympic Athletes of Russia, a game OAR won 4-0. Russians Nail Yakupov and Semyon Varlamov were quick to chirp American teammates Colin Wilson and Matt Nieto about the result. Nieto, of course, said what everyone else was thinking when he told Varlamov the Russian team should win, given it’s the only team that sent legitimate NHL-caliber talent to the tournament. The Russian players didn’t seem to care and continued reveling in their victory.

-Following practice, A.J. Greer was sent back to San Antonio of the AHL.


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