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Frei column: Mikko Rantanen at the center of attention

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David Zalubowski/AP

Nathan MacKinnon, who has missed the past eight games with a lower-body injury, is expected to return to the Avalanche lineup on the upcoming five-game road trip — perhaps as soon as Wednesday at Toronto. With him and then J.T. Compher also out, Mikko Rantanen has stepped from right wing to center on the top line between Gabriel Landeskog and fill-in Logan O’Connor.

It’s not brain surgery, and most NHL wingers have played center in the past, whether when starting out in the game or during their professional careers — or in between.

But it’s an adjustment.

“It’s obviously nice to have him back,” Rantanen said of MacKinnon Saturday night. “He’s one of the best players in the world. Get one of the best players back to the team, it’s only going to help us.”

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