Colorado Avalanche star center Nathan MacKinnon could return to the lineup this week after missing nearly a month with an upper-body injury.
MacKinnon has missed the Avalanche’s last nine games and is expected to miss at least one more when Colorado visits the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night.
But Colorado will return home for games against the Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs this Thursday and Saturday, and head coach Jared Bender left the door open to a return.
“We have got to see him coming out of this (holiday) break here,” Bednar said Tuesday on Altitude 92.5 FM in Denver. “He’ll continue to skate. And hopefully, between now and New Year’s, he could get back in the lineup. That would be a little bit ahead of schedule, but it sounds like he’s knocking on the door here.”
In his first 23 games, Nathan MacKinnon had eight goals and 26 assists for 34 points. He started the season centering the top line between wingers Artturi Lehkonen and Mikko Rantanen.
JT Compher has been filling that spot most recently. In nine games with McKinnon out of the lineup, Compher has two goals and two assists while averaging 23:45 of ice time. His career average is 16:30 per game.
MacKinnon signed an eight-year contract extension in September that will keep him with the Avalanche through 2031. He’s one of a number of Colorado players that have been out with injury recently, including captain Gabriel Landeskog and winger Valeri Nichuskin.
Bednar did not reveal details about McKinnon’s injury but said it’s been a difficult recovery process for the 27-year-old.
“This guy wants to play and wants to compete,” Bednar said. “That’s just the way he’s built. You know, his injury isn’t an easy one to come through. So no, it doesn’t surprise me that he’s going to be back just a bit ahead of the timeline by the looks of things.”