Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy will mix up his lines once again tonight against the Ottawa Senators as his club looks to get back to its winning ways after having a three-game winning streak snapped on Monday to Calgary.
However, it's not from Roy trying to light a spark under his team but because forward Ryan O'Reilly will be out of the lineup with a shoulder injury he suffered in the third period against the Flames. Defenseman Nate Guenin will also miss his second consecutive game after injuring his ankle in last Saturday's win over San Jose.
Guenin and O'Reilly's injuries are considered day-to-day so both are expected to return to action soon, but the duo does join an injured list that is slowly growing with PA Parenteau (ankle), Alex Tanguay (knee/hip) and Ryan Wilson (in Lake Erie for condition after back injury) also out of the Avalanche lineup.
"You don't like to lose players, there's no doubt about it. Now we're starting to have a pretty good list," Roy said. "But at the same time that is why we call it a team. It's a team concept for us here, and everyone has to chip in. It also allows a chance for some of our players to see ice and have the opportunity to make a mark for themselves."
One of the players who has stepped up recently is rookie forward Nathan MacKinnon.
MacKinnon had his second-straight multi-goal game Monday against the Flames, becoming the youngest player in NHL history to record back-to-back, two-goal contests. He has six goals and seven points in his last five games and leads all NHL rookies in scoring with 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists).
The rookie has been a utility player of sorts for Roy and the Avs this season as he's played on both wings and at center at different times on the top three lines.
"There are so many talented players on this team that it is easy to slide in any line," MacKinnon said.
MacKinnon has most recently played on the third line, but he'll move up to the first scoring line with Matt Duchene at center and Jamie McGinn at left wing this evening. This will be the line's first game together, but MacKinnon has played with Duchene and McGinn separately on different combos this year.
Max Talbot will move down to the third line with Cody McLeod and Marc-Andre Cliche, who will get his first promotion from the fourth line this season. Roy's final forward line will consist of Brad Malone, most likely at center, Patrick Bordeleau and David Van Der Gulik.
Van Der Gulik will be playing in his first NHL game this season after being recalled from Lake Erie on Tuesday. He missed all of the Avalanche's training camp in September while recovering from knee surgery, but he has appeared in 40 games previously with Colorado over the past three seasons.
The veteran forward will be coming in with a little momentum on his side, as he has six goals in 14 games with the Monsters and is coming off a hat trick in his most recent American Hockey League game last Saturday against Milwaukee.
"When you're called up, they expect you to bring energy and contribute as much as you can," Van Der Gulik said. "Obviously, you're not going to play as many minutes, but when you're out there, don't be a liability, be reliable, get the puck in, get some hits and try to contribute offensively. If I can kill some penalties and get some time on the penalty kill, I'll definitely be blocking shots and doing whatever it takes to get the puck out. I know my role, and I'm excited about it and am excited to be back."
AVALANCHE SPOTLIGHT ON: NATHAN MacKINNON
Rookie forward Nathan MacKinnon seems to have found his stride recently as he has seven goals in his last six games and leads all NHL rookies in scoring with 28 points.
"I think I'm a little more comfortable with the puck," MacKinnon said of his recent play. "I've accumulated a little more patience for myself. I think I'm making smarter plays and high-percentage plays."
He has scored two goals in each of his past two games, becoming the youngest player in NHL history to record multiple goals in two consecutive team games (18 years, 127 days). He broke the mark set by Jets forward Dale Hawerchuk from Oct. 23-25, 1981 (18 years, 204 days).
MacKinnon also became the first 18-year-old (on any team) to post consecutive multi-goal games since current Avs forward Matt Duchene did so Nov. 30 - Dec. 2, 2009. He is only the third Avalanche rookie (since 1995-96) to post back-to-back multi-goal games, joining Duchene (Nov. 30 - Dec. 2, 2009) and T.J. Hensick (Feb. 2-4, 2008).
Other than a five-game stretch in October, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2013 draft has been a consistent scorer for the Avalanche. MacKinnon's next longest point drought is two games.
MORE MORNING NOTES
- Goaltender Semyon Varlamov is expected to start in net for the Avalanche this evening against the Senators. He is 6-0-4 in his last 11 games (10 starts), equaling his longest streak without a regulation loss in his NHL career (10 decisions). He went 9-0-1 from Dec. 13, 2008 to Oct. 29, 2009. Varlamov, whose last regulation defeat was Dec. 10 vs. Phoenix, has a 2.14 goals-against average and .936 save percentage during this stretch (645 minutes, 362 shots, 23 goals).
- Forward Alex Tanguay skated for the third consecutive day and took drill with teammates for the first time during the Avs' morning skate practice. He has missed the past 29 games with knee and hip injuries.
- Defenseman Andre Benoit will be playing his former team as he played 41 games with the Senators the past two seasons, including 33 as a regular starter in last year's shortened campaign.
- The Avalanche and Senators are meeting for the first time since Oct. 13, 2011, a 7-1 Avs victory in Ottawa. This is the first matchup between the two teams in Denver since Dec. 17, 2010 (6-5 Avs win). Colorado and Ottawa will face off for the second and final time on March 16 at the Canadian Tire Centre.
- The Avs have won the last five meetings against the Senators. Ottawa's last victory was Dec. 12, 2005 at Pepsi Center (6-2).
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