Starting Lineup: Nathan MacKinnon out for Avalanche tonight in Calgary

Mar 1, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) before the game against the New York Islanders at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Avalanche will be without their superstar center against the Calgary Flames tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome. And it appears he may miss more than just this game.

Nathan MacKinnon did not partake in the team’s morning skate on Tuesday and Avs coach Jared Bednar later told reporters that it’s an upper-body injury and MacKinnon is on his way back to Denver to be re-evaluated. Bednar said the concern around the team is “high.”

MacKinnon fought Minnesota’s Matt Dumba in the third period on Sunday and was seen holding an ice pack to his hand in the penalty box for an extended period. Bednar told reporters in Calgary that it’s possible the injury was a result of that fight.

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1 — Who replaces MacKinnon?

Without MacKinnon, the Avalanche will see a shakeup among their lines. Bednar has not shied away from using winger Mikko Rantanen in the center position when MacKinnon is absent from the lineup.

Although this time around, Bednar will be stacking his top line. Rantanen will remain on the wing and will play alongside center Nazem Kadri and winger Valeri Nichushkin.

2 — Artturi Lehkonen slots in

The 26-year-old cleared immigration on Monday and is finally set to make his debut with the Avs a week after he was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens.

Lehkonen will see time in the top six in his debut, playing with rookie center Alex Newhook and winger Andre Burakovsky on Colorado’s new-look second line.

3 — Powerhouse matchup

It’s not ideal for the Avs to face another notable injury right before a matchup against the second-best team in the Western Conference.

Colorado scraped out a point in Sunday’s matchup against the Wild, who have the third-best record in the West. But with MacKinnon joining captain Gabriel Landeskog and top defensemen Samuel Girard and Bowen Byram on the sideline, the Avs are tasked with a powerhouse matchup against the Flames while missing four crucial pieces they hope to have back before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.

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Aarif Deen is our Colorado Avalanche beat reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availabilities and other events pertaining to the Avs on the daily beat. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports upon completion of his bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Before Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as the assistant sports information director.
Follow him on Twitter @runwriteAarif

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