The Avalanche went into Chicago on Friday and defeated the Blackhawks 5-2 at the United Center. And they did it without their three most dangerous wingers in Mikko Rantanen, Gabe Landeskog, and Andre Burakovsky.
As the Avs prepares for their rematch against the Blackhawks toight, they’re set to welcome Rantanen back into the lineup.
“We’re missing 10 forwards it feels like. It’s just been crazy,” superstar Nathan MacKinnon said. “We just need to weather the storm until we get healthy. We know we’re a hell of a team, we started the season 7-0 for a reason.”
MacKinnon has been a crucial player in Colorado’s recent success. After a five-game winless streak early in November, Colorado has now won seven of its past 10 games and two straight overall since losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs last weekend.
Against the Blackhawks on Friday, MacKinnon recorded one goal and three assists, bringing his points total to 39 on the season, which ties him with Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak for fourth in the league. He is also currently riding a six-game point streak, where he’s recorded 13 points.
The Avalanche also had a big performance from forward J.T. Compher, who recorded his second career three-point night in his hometown. The native of Northbrooke, Ill., had one goal and two assists playing alongside MacKinnon, a spot he is likely to relinquish with Rantanen returning tonight.
“It’s exciting,” MacKinnon said about Rantanen’s return. “Especially for our power play we need him. It’s been tough. Mikko did one rep on the power play (at practice) and it was amazing—a little tease. It’s exciting to get one of the best players in the world back on our team.”
The Avalanche will also be facing another one of the world’s best tonight in Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane. His goal late in the second period on Friday extended his point streak to 14 games, currently the longest of its kind in the NHL. Kane has 10 goals and 13 assists during this stretch.
“You do your best to try to contain those guys,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “I don’t think you’re always going to shut players like that down, but you got to make sure you’re doing the right things from a checking standpoint. You gotta have the determination to try to stop guys like that, and if you do that then you can pass the torch to the rest of your team to win some other matchups. I would say there’s some things you try and do differently to prepare.”
Tonight’s home game is crucial for the suddenly hot Avalanche. Colorado is set to embark on a three-game road trip on the East coast next week, which includes a rematch against the Toronto Maple Leafs and former Av defenseman Tyson Barrie. The homecoming for Avs center Nazem Kadri is expected to take center stage. But for the Avalanche, an opportunity to continue to build on this recent stretch is the main priority.
Colorado currently trails the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues in the Central Division standings, while holding games in hand on both. Which says that they’ve done a great job at weathering the storm while having a player go down with an injury seemingly each game.
Rantanen is back. But the Avs will still be without Landeskog, Burakovsky, forwards Matt Calvert and Colin Wilson, and defenseman Erik Johnson.
The Avs and Blackhawks will drop the puck at 7 p.m. MST.