One game into the season and the Colorado Avalanche are dealing with more issues than some teams go through in a month.
Nathan MacKinnon (COVID-19) is in limbo, forward Valeri Nichushkin is week-to-week with an upper-body injury and Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog has been suspended for two games.
Colorado at least got a victory in its opener, 4-2, over Chicago, but it came at a price. Already the Avalanche are forced to do some shuffling heading into Saturday night’s game in Denver against the St. Louis Blues.
In addition to Nichushkin’s injury, forwards Andre Burakovsky and Darren Helm are dinged up but will play against St. Louis. The Avalanche should also have head coach Jared Bednar back behind the bench. He missed Wednesday’s game while in COVID-19 protocols but ran practice Friday and is expected to be coaching live Saturday night.
MacKinnon’s situation is less clear. He could return but he must have two negative tests or be away from the team for 10 days. He tested positive Tuesday but is asymptomatic, the team said. General manager Joe Sakic said Tuesday that the team is 100 percent vaccinated.
Landeskog was suspended for boarding Chicago forward Kirby Dach late in Wednesday’s game, and if MacKinnon can’t play the Avalanche will be without two of three players from the top line.
Bednar watched Wednesday’s game on TV and liked a few things he saw but said the team needs to clean up some issues.
“We mismanaged the puck a little bit in the second half of the game and it cost us some scoring chances,” he said Friday. “The way we play and try to make plays and be dangerous, you’re going to have a turnover or two. The six or seven we had last game is too many.”
The Blues have yet to play a game this season, a fact that coach Craig Berube said was a scheduling quirk. They will finally have their first meaningful game since May, when Colorado finished off a first-round sweep of their series.
St. Louis, like every team, had offseason changes. Most notably was forward Brandon Saad signing a five-year deal after playing last season with the Avalanche. The Blues also acquired forward Pavel Buchnevich from the New York Rangers and signed veteran James Neal to a one-year deal.
Saad, along with center Ryan O’Reilly, is one of two former Colorado players among the top six forwards. O’Reilly and David Perron combined for 14 points in eight regular season games against the Avalanche last year, but Perron may not play Saturday due to an undisclosed injury.
Perron, who didn’t play in the playoff series in May, did not practice Friday.
“It’s more maintenance than anything right now,” Berube said after Friday’s practice. “We’ll see (Saturday). That’s really all I can give you right now.”
Klim Kostin took Perron’s place on the top line with Saad and O’Reilly on Friday.
“We’re going to see injuries throughout the year,” Colton Parayko said before referencing Perron. “A great player, tough void to fill, but it gives guys an opportunity to step up. Hopefully he’s feeling better and we can have him (Saturday).”
–Field Level Media