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Avalanche Skate: MacKinnon Keeps Working, Bednar Not in Love With His Lines



Avalanche MacKinnon

About 30 minutes before practice was supposed to begin for the Colorado Avalanche, we got word from PR that it was going to be optional.

Not a big surprise. In fact, I’d expect most, if not all practices to be optional the rest of the way. So with news like that, I figured it would be five to ten skaters on the ice. To my surprise, we had about 15 skaters on the ice.

One of those skaters was Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon. Most of the players that played heavy minutes the night before took the day off, but MacKinnon wasn’t one of them (Girard also skated). That’s why he’s one of the best in the world. He didn’t join the rest of the team for drills, but on one end of the ice, he and Evan Rodrigues worked on some very specific things.

For about 20-25 minutes, the two of them worked on hitting each other in the slot with quick passes, and releasing the puck as soon as possible. Earlier in the year, MacKinnon mentioned he had never really played with another right handed shot, and that’s what Rodrigues is. There are minor adjustments needed for small details like that, but that’s why he’s elite. He works at everything, and he and Rodrigues have good chemistry together.

A few other players skating were Andrew Cogliano and Darren Helm. Cogliano, however, left the ice pretty quickly. Jack Johnson, who was a late scratch after being listed in the lineup after warmups, did not skate. Bednar said he considers all three of them to be day-to-day. They’re hoping one or more of them will be available for game two.

Additions like that won’t matter if the execution isn’t there on Thursday. The Avalanche had chances, registering 35 shots on net, but they didn’t love everything about those shots.

“The chances that we got were good chances,” veteran Matt Nieto said. “I think it was a little one and done, though. I think when we’re playing our best, it’s more sustained pressure and zone time, and I think yesterday, we’d get a good chance and the puck would go out of the zone. We just really couldn’t create that momentum of extended shifts in their end.”

The Kraken deserve credit for how they played, but the Avalanche know they can be better.

“They played a strong game, but we really didn’t give ourselves the best chance of winning that one,” Nieto said. “There’s a lot of things we can clean up, execution wise, and even just battle and commitment wise. We’ll be looking to do that tomorrow.”

One thing we may see on Thursday is players getting moved around between lines. The top line created chances, but the second line, in particular, really struggled.

“I didn’t love our lines last night,” Jared Bednar said after practice. “I thought there was some good out of all of our lines. The o-zone time to d-zone time was pretty good. I liked some of the chance generation. It’s just for the standard that we have set for some of our group, it just wasn’t up to where it should be, especially come playoff time.”

While Bednar didn’t go as far as saying he’d break up MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, don’t be surprised if you see it happen.

Other Tidbits

  • Tuesday night was the first time since November that the six defensemen dressed had played a game together. Bednar, however, didn’t want to make excuses for their lack of cohesion, stating they’ve played plenty of times together in the past and some of them just had off-nights. He reiterated again that Manson looked rusty.
  • The ice looked bad on Tuesday night, but as you would expect, both Bednar and Nieto said it can’t be used as an excuse because both teams had to play on it. “They didn’t seem to have a problem with the speed of it or the execution of it,” Bednar said. Nieto said it was no different than how it’s been all year.

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