The Colorado Avalanche have been at the top of the NHL’s goals-per-game statistic for most of the season. Finding ways to score goals has not been an issue for the team as a whole. The Avalanche have had a successful month of December, but in comparison to the rest of the season the scoring has slightly diminished. Head coach Patrick Roy feels the scoring production could improve, so at Saturday’s practice there was another shaking up of lines that are to be used going forward, as long as they are successful.

The Avalanche, as a unit are seventh in the league in goals per game at 2.83 and have scored higher than that average in five of their last six. However, Roy fears there has not been enough point production coming from their first line, the “Nine Line.” The Avalanche have still been scoring goals, they have just been coming from the other three line combinations. Roy now believes they could maximize their scoring with a small tweak, by switching centers on two of the lines.

“We need to get some scoring from our top line,” Roy said after the first practice after the Christmas break. “I thought it was good at some points in the way they [the opponents] had to match up their top [defensive] pairing against our top line. It opened up, I mean the second third and fourth line started scoring more, but now it’s our first line that doesn’t score as much. We are going to try to give them a chance to play different pairings.”

Roy has decided to split up the “Nine Line” in hopes of increasing the scoring production. The team as a whole has been scoring, but the three members of the young, skillful first line have suffered a decrease in production since they were first assembled. To start, they were a high-paced, high-production line, finding that teams were unable to keep up with theirs speed, but have since slowed down in their scoring and are now separated. Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog will still be together with John Mitchell playing the center role. Nathan MacKinnon will now be in between Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla.

Moving John Mitchell to the first line shows his versatility that makes him such a valuable asset to the Avalanche. He can adapt to anyone’s game and brings a high intensity work ethic to any line he is on. This year he has played on all four lines and should be able to keep up just fine with Landeskog and Duchene. Mitchell surrounded by a little more skill should help him boost his scoring, which at eight goals and two assists, could really use a spark.

Iginla and Tanguay are two guys that need to be played on the same line, so there is no surprise that they remain on a line together. Their production as of late has not been stellar, combining for one goal and five assists since Tanguay’s return from a knee injury, but they still find ways to affect the game. Much of the value the two bring cannot be quantified and together their level of chemistry and teamwork rivals that of any duo seen today.

“Definitely one of the guys I have enjoyed playing with the most and have been lucky to play with, but if you talk to anybody that plays with him, he’s the type of player that guys enjoy playing with and he makes you better,” Iginla said about his chemistry with Tanguay. “I think we have had chemistry since way back, but over time as you play together, you get used to plays. When we are in certain positions on the ice, we have an idea of what we are trying as a pair, where we expect each other where to be.”

Adding MacKinnon to the Iginla-Tanguay line could help the young center get out of his current slump. Having not scored a goal in fifteen games, MacKinnon can benefit from Tanguay’s ability to set up plays, make difficult passes and make players around him better. Iginla, being a longtime goal-scorer himself, can help MacKinnon get out of his slump through guidance and experience. Tanguay and Iginla’s cerebral aspect of their game should help set MacKinnon up for goals, therefore curing the scoring issues of all three.

“He is a guy that adds jump to whatever line he plays on,” Iginla said on playing with MacKinnon. “It’s not just his speed, his hockey sense and everything he has already at twenty, he is a huge part of our team and the offense.”

Two of Colorado’s lines are remaining the same, and two have changed in hopes of spreading out the skill and scoring. It had been a while since we have seen a shakeup from coach Roy and as soon as there are some issues with these lines, it is almost certain they will be mixed up again. For now, the switching of MacKinnon and Mitchell hopes to maintain the Avalanche at the top of the NHL’s goals-per-game category and continue the push for playoff contention.

With six of the next seven and eight of the next ten games being at home for the Avalanche, they have an opportunity to take advantage of home ice. Only five points out of a playoff spot, a spark in scoring while enjoying the comforts of home could propel the Avs to the where they need to be. Colorado currently sits at 35 points, chasing the Nashville Predators who have lost four of their last six.