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Avs Notebook: Nichushkin, Jack Johnson still out; Why the PK is improving



Colorado Avalanche

When the Avalanche try to make it 11 wins in a row at Ball Arena, tomorrow against the Toronto Maple Leafs (5 p.m. start), they will be without Valeri Nichushkin and Jack Johnson for another game at least.

Nichushkin and Johnson aren’t far away from playing – maybe early next week they’ll return – but coach Jared Bednar said today they’re still rehabbing.

There wasn’t much in the way of hard news otherwise today. The Avs are playing tremendous hockey right now, winners of 10 straight at home, while the Leafs have won four in a row. The Avs will catch Toronto without key forward Mitch Marner, as he entered the Covid protocol today.

Bednar said backup goalie Pavel Francouz will start playing again next week, when the Avs start to play more back-to-back games. Bednar said Francouz has gotten a lot of good practice time in lately, and he won’t hesitate playing him.

The Avs lost badly at Toronto about a month ago, a result derived from the fact that “we didn’t check the right way,” Bednar said. “It’ll be a good reminder, and something we’ll talk about tomorrow. This is a dangerous offensive team, and they’ve been checking pretty hard and pretty well. We’re going to have to come ready. They’re a top team in the league right now.”

Bednar acknowledged that, to help his team’s struggling penalty kill, he’s used both Cale Makar and Devon Toews on it more, and the numbers bear that out.

Toews played five minutes, 40 seconds on the PK in the win over Winnipeg, while Makar played 1:56. A few games before, against Anaheim, the two combined for only three minutes of PK time. Their presence has helped, as the PK has been strong the last two games.

Bo Byram has also gotten more time on the PK.

Bo Byram got a haircut, because it was getting “a little too doggish.”

Mikko Rantanen on Nathan MacKinnon, who has four goals on the season: “He’s too elite not to score. Every player in the league has those stretches where you don’t score some goals, but he’s still playing really well. When he doesn’t score, he’s making some plays.”

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