24 hours after defeating the San Jose Sharks, the Avalanche suffered two losses, including a potentially massive blow to their lineup, in their loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.
Colorado dropped a 3-1 contest to the Kings, failing to dethrone the defending Cup champion St. Louis Blues for first place in the Western Conference. But more important, Avalanche All-Star center Nathan MacKinnon left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury and did not return.
MacKinnon, who leads the Avalanche with 93 points, has not missed a game since suffering an injury in January of 2018 that kept him out of the lineup for eight games.
Colorado is already without forwards Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, Colin Wilson and Matt Calvert as well as starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer and prized rookie defenseman Cale Makar.
Without MacKinnon, the Avs (41-20-8) surrendered the first goal for the third consecutive game as the Kings jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. Colorado had a chance to pull within one in the second period when Valeri Nichushkin was granted a penalty shot. The Russian forward failed to capitalize on the opportunity.
Avs center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored to make it 2-1 before the second intermission, moments after MacKinnon left the game. The Avs hit the post twice in the third period and eventually surrendered the third goal.
MacKinnon’s injury could be costly. The common denominator for the Avalanche’s lineup has always been MacKinnon. No matter who goes down, Avs coach Jared Bednar has always relied on MacKinnon to lead the team. In fact, Bednar scratched Sheldon Dries on Monday, playing seven defensemen with the thought of double-shifting his superstar center.
MacKinnon and his line were dominant on Sunday. While there’s really never a good time to lose a player of MacKinnon’s caliber, what makes the timing of it all the more frustrating is the recent play of MacKinnon and his linemates. Playing with captain Gabriel Landeskog and newcomer Vladislav Namestnikov, MacKinnon had recently picked up his offensive game. On Sunday, the line combined for eight points in a come-from-behind victory over the San Jose Sharks.
Colorado begins its four-game homestand against the New York Rangers. The Avs will play nine of the remaining 13 games of the season on home ice. On Wednesday, Colorado hosts the Rangers on NBCSN.