Cale Makar is back.
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar confirmed at the morning skate Friday, before a matchup against the visiting Minnesota Wild, that the rookie defenseman will return after an eight-game absence.
Makar, originally listed “day-to-day,” has not played since being on the receiving end of a hit from Boston forward Brad Marchand nearly three weeks ago. He has eight goals and 28 points through Colorado’s first 29 games.
Having the Calder Trophy frontrunner return Friday is timely—Colorado is set to commence a four-game stretch against division opponents. After Friday’s game against the Wild (6 p.m., NBCSN), the Avs will fly to Dallas for a meeting against the Stars on Saturday. Colorado is then back home for two games against the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues next week.
“It’s big,” Bednar said of Makar’s return. “The thing is, with the timing of his injury, it took a little bit longer than we thought to get him back. But we wanted him to be back healthy and feeling confident with his shoulder and his body, making sure that he can play the way he has to play to help us win. We didn’t want to rush him back, especially with the Christmas break.”
Colorado’s last game before the break was crucial for a team that had lost three of its previous four games. The Avalanche defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 7-3 on Monday to improve to 4-3-1 in the eight games without Makar and enter the NHL’s Christmas break on a winning note.
“It was a big win,” Avs forward Mikko Rantanen said of the road victory over the Knights. “Right before that we lost three of four so it’s big to get a win before the break. Now everyone is excited to get back after a few days off.”
The holiday break gives all NHL players three full days off around Christmas. The time away will be crucial for a team that will be playing two games in two nights coming out of the break.
“Everyone is well-rested, everybody’s excited to get back,” Rantanen said. “It’s good to play a back-to-back right away to get the lungs back, first of all, and the legs back.”
Bednar confirmed that the Avalanche will start Pavel Francouz against the Wild with Philipp Grubauer expected to start in Dallas.