When a coach puts together a new line combination, there are no guarantees that the trio will have chemistry and will work well together.
That was not the case Tuesday as Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy struck gold with his new line of Ryan O'Reilly, Matt Duchene and Jamie McGinn. The trio scored two goals and was on the ice for another score in Colorado's 5-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Each player brought their own specialty to the line—Duchene with his speed, McGinn with his physicality and O'Reilly with his puck handling—and it seemed like a perfect combination.
"For us, it was just keep it simple and get the puck low," said O'Reilly, who had a goal and an assist. "We're going to create opportunities, and this time we did."
The new line came about after right wing PA Parenteau injured his knee Sunday against Winnipeg, forcing Roy to reshuffle his forward combinations. Parenteau will be out approximately six weeks, and Roy said the injury would allow other players the chance to step up.
"You don't like to lose players, but at the same time everybody is exposed to a situation like this," he said after morning skate. "I see it as an opportunity for some of our guys to take advantage of the situation."
McGinn was one of the players who took advantage of the opportunity as he scored the Avalanche's second goal that tied game at 2-2 in the second period. Duchene had the original shot from the slot, but the puck rebounded off Curtis McElhinney and in front of McGinn, who whacked at it and sent it between the pads of the Columbus goaltender.
"I was just trying to work hard, get into the dirty areas and just get a stick on it and whack away until the rebound goes in," McGinn said of his seventh goal of the season. "I was fortunate to see it hit the back of the net."
The line helped set up Colorado's first goal at 6:33 of the first period as it kept the puck in the Blue Jackets' zone, which allowed defenseman Jan Hejda to score on a slap shot from the point. The tally tied the game at 1-1 and came 2:20 after Columbus had taken an early lead.
The combo struck again on the power play at 14:42 of the second period to give Colorado a 3-2 lead. At the right point, Duchene passed the puck to O'Reilly at the low circle, and the forward attacked the net and scored on a wrist shot to the goalie's short side.
"We scored some pretty goals," Duchene said. "[O'Reilly's] goal was a nice goal."
While it was only its first game together, the line seemed to have immediate chemistry as it combined for seven shots and five points (two goals, three assists). The trio also worked well in even strength and power play situations.
McGinn said afterwards he enjoyed playing with Duchene and O'Reilly and hopes the line will stay together for more than one game.
"It was our first game together. I enjoy playing with those two," McGinn said. "They are world-class players. Factor (O'Reilly) with the puck, it's amazing the things he can do, and Dutchy (Duchene) with his speed and skill, he can turn nothing into something right away. I enjoyed it. I hope it continues, but it was good to see that we were creating plays out there and trying to get chances."
The line may never be broken up if it keeps producing like it did against the Blue Jackets.
MALONE BACK IN THE LINEUP
Avalanche forward Brad Malone returned to the Avalanche lineup after being a healthy scratch for 14 straight games. His previous game was Nov. 29 at Minnesota.
Despite not playing for over a month, Malone said before the game that he felt good both mentally and physically for his return to the lineup.
"The coaches have done a good job on keeping us ready," Malone said. "I've been working out a lot so physically I'm prepared, but mentally it's kind of the same approach as always. It will be nice to get out there and get that first shift over with."
Malone had been working out nearly every day and had been skating at every possible opportunity with the coaching staff while being scratched. He said that he understood that it was a process when you're the extra forward but was still excited to be around the club.
"I just love being here, being around the room and at practice and getting to be with the guys," he said. "It's a great experience, and it's a great learning experience for me. You obviously want to be out there with the guys playing, but at the same time it's been great."
He finished with three hits during 6:01 of ice time against Columbus.
FORMER AV DAN HINOTE HONORED
The Colorado Avalanche honored former forward Dan Hinote before the game by inducting him into its Alumni Association.
Hinote dropped the puck in a ceremonial faceoff and was presented a painting of him by Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog.
A current Columbus Blue Jackets assistant coach, Hinote is one of three former players that will be inducted by the Avs this season. Adam Foote joined the association earlier this year.
Hinote was a seventh-round pick (167th overall) by the Avalanche in the 1996 Entry Draft and spent his first six NHL seasons with Colorado. He tallied 65 points (27 goals, 38 assists) in 353 games with the organization and was a member of the Avalanche's 2001 Stanley Cup championship team.
A NEW YEAR'S EVE RARITY
The Avalanche is no stranger to playing on New Year's Eve, but this year's game marked a first for the franchise.
The club had played on the final day of the year 10 times since moving to Denver, but Tuesday's game marked the first time it had done so at Pepsi Center. The Avalanche's arena opened in 1999.
Colorado had only played at home twice before Tuesday's game, Dec. 31, 1998 (6-3 loss to NY Rangers) and Dec. 31, 1997 (3-1 win over NY Islanders), but both games were at McNichols Arena.
The Avs are now 6-4-1 in its New Year's Eve game. The Quebec Nordiques were 3-5-1 all-time on Dec. 31.
MORE POSTGAME NOTES
-Nick Holden and Nate Guenin were healthy scratches for the Avs
-The Avs are 6-4-1 on New Year’s Eve since moving to Denver, 2-1-0 at home.
-The Avalanche improved to 34-10-4 all-time against the Blue Jackets, 19-5-1 at home.
-The Avalanche scored a season-high three power-play goals tonight, going 3-for-3 with the man advantage… It’s the first time Colorado scored three power-play goals in a game since Oct. 13, 2011 at Ottawa, when they scored four times.
-The Avs are 9-3-0 against Eastern Conference teams this year, 4-2-0 at home and 5-1-0 on the road.
-Matt Duchene finished with a team-high 16 points (4g/12a) in 14 December games.
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