Minus center superstar Nathan MacKinnon and head coach Jared Bednar, the Avalanche were impatient to open the 2021-22 season at home on Wednesday.
“Ready to rock,” Avs captain Gabe Landeskog said after morning practice at Ball Arena, where the club will host the Chicago Blackhawks at 8 p.m. in a nationally televised game on TNT. “It’s an exciting day.”
The Avs are 100% vaccinated against COVID-19, but Bednar tested positive late last week and MacKinnon tested positive on Monday. Colorado’s bench on Wednesday will be led by assistant coaches Ray Bennett and Nolan Pratt and skills coach Shawn Allard. MacKinnon will be replaced by Nazem Kadri on the first line and Andre Burakovsky on the power play.
Forward Jayson Megna has been called up from the Colorado Eagles to the AHL to replace JT Compher in the fourth line. Compher replaces Kadri in the second row.
“You know me. You probably know what I’m going to say: this is what it is,” Landeskog said of the start of the season with several COVID issues. “There is nothing we can control “Hopefully Bedsy can be back this weekend, and Nate, we’ll see. I spoke to him (Tuesday). He’s asymptomatic. He feels perfectly fine. Hopefully he can test it at some point.”
“But we know we have a good team in (the locker room) and we’re going to try to establish a good advantage on the home ice – being a good home team all season and that starts with the opener at home tonight. “
The Avs will also be without defenseman Devon Toews and goalkeeper Pavel Francouz against the Blackhawks. Both are in the casualty reserve.
The Avs and Blackhawks, once again Central Division rivals, will meet for the first time in nearly 22 months, since December 21, 2019, when Chicago scored three goals in the third period to rally for a 5-hour victory. -3 at the United Center.
Blackhawks center and team captain Jonathan Toews, who scored one goal and two assists in that game, missed all of last season after being diagnosed with chronic immune response syndrome. Chicago remained in the Central Division in 2021, but Colorado was moved west, with the two clubs playing only division games in a 56-game regular season.
“I never played these guys in any way,” Landeskog said. “It’s exciting. We have a home division game to start, and Saturday (against St. Louis) as well.
In addition to Toews’ long-awaited return, renowned defenseman Seth Jones and goaltender Marc-André Fleury will make their Blackhawks debut. They were acquired from Columbus and Vegas, respectively, in off-season exchanges.
Chicago defenseman Ian Mitchell, former University of Denver star player and team captain, will make his Ball Arena debut. Former Pioneers forward Henrik Borgstrom will also be part of the Blackhawks roster.
The alignment planned for the avalanche
- Gabe Landeskog-Nazem Kadri-Mikko Rantanen
- Valeri Nichushkin-JT Compher-Andre Burakovsky
- Alex Newhook-Tyson Jost-Sampo Ranta
- Jayson Megna-Darren Helm-Logan O’Connor
- Sam Girard-Cale Makar
- Bo Byram-Erik Johnson
- Ryan Murray-Jack Johnson
- Darcy kuemper
- Jonas johansson
Striped: D Kurtis MacDermid, C Nathan MacKinnon
Reserve injured: D Devon Toews, G Pavel Francouz