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Avalanche playoffs

Frei: Nathan MacKinnon hopes to be smiling this time when it’s all over (+)

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Nathan MacKinnon knows it’s out there.

“It” is the contention that because MacKinnon’s seemingly underachieving NHL career took off after the Avalanche traded a disgruntled Matt Duchene on November 5, 2017, the two were linked.

If “b” (MacKinnon’s breakout) followed “a” (Duchene’s departure), then “a” caused “b.”

Right?

Not necessarily.

Of course, I’m bringing this up because Duchene is in town with the Nashville Predators for Tuesday night’s Game 1 of the Western Conference first-round series.

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If the Predators are to pull off the upset, Duchene — who had 43 goals and 43 assists in the regular season — likely will have to be productive at right wing on Nashville’s top line. (Right wing? That’s part of the story, too … and I’ll get to that in a minute.)

“Duchy’s a good person,” MacKinnon said after the Avalanche’s Monday practice at Ball Arena. “He just needed a change of scenery. Obviously, we got a great trade for him. It was so long ago, it was five years ago now. I know we’re playing them in the playoffs, but Duchy is a great player and had an awesome year.”

I asked MacKinnon about all of this as far back as late 2017, or shortly after the trade.

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