NASHVILLE – Gabriel Landeskog’s hit-the-ice running play perhaps has been the most remarkable aspect of the Avalanche’s performance in the first three games of the first-round series against the Predators.
Going into the potentially series-ending Game 4 Monday night at Bridgestone Arena, the Avalanche captain has three goals — two of them on the power play — and three assists in the series.
His six points are second only to Cale Makar’s seven as the young defenseman continues to stake out a spot on the marquee list of the league’s elite.
Playing on the Nazem Kadri-centered second line with Artturi Lehtonen, Landeskog’s ice time has been 19:58.
My pre-series column on Landeskog and his return is here.
He hasn’t been eased back in after undergoing knee surgery in mid-March and missing the final 23 regular-season games.
“It’s what I’ve come to expect of Landy,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said at the optional practice Sunday. “Just talking to him while he was out, he was putting in a lot of work … He understands that he’s coming back at the most important part of the season, the playoffs. He wants to do everything in his power to help our team win. The dedication that he had being out for a couple of months and getting fixed up.
“A lot of work and sweat goes into being ready and back in the lineup. He didn’t have a lot of practice time either. He was on his own for a while. We were on the road and then he joins our team for a couple of skates and then has to get his intensity level to where the rest of the team had been playing at, and then some, because it’s the start of the playoffs. It’s so amazing for him to get ready on his own, and obviously he’s made a big difference in the lineup.”
The debatable issue going into the series was whether to plug Landeskog back onto the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, or put him with Kadri. I’ve long been an advocate of not messing with that first line, not for the sake of balance or anything else, but again, it’s not as if this is is being justified as working Landeskog back in the lineup.
Plus, Valeri Nichushkin has been strong — strong, in more ways than one — at left wing on the top line.
“In the playoffs, you’re not thinking how much time you missed or how rusty you might be,” Landeskog said after Game 3. “You’re just trying to get into it and involved right away. For me, that’s moving my feet and playing physical.”
If the Avalanche close out the Predators Monday night, Landeskog — and his teammates — will get a week of rest.
Terry Frei (email@example.com, @tfrei) is a Denver-based author and journalist. He has been named a state’s sportswriter of the year seven times in peer voting — four times in Colorado and three times in Oregon. His seven books include the novels “Olympic Affair” and “The Witch’s Season.” Among his five non-fiction works are “Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming,” “Third Down and a War to Go,” “March 1939: Before the Madness,” and “’77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age.” He also collaborated with Adrian Dater on “Save By Roy,” was a long-time vice president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and has covered the hockey Rockies, Avalanche and the NHL at-large. His web site is www.terryfrei.com and his bio is available at www.terryfrei.com/bio.html
His Colorado Hockey Now column archive can be accessed here