The Colorado Avalanche appear to have their opening night lineup set, but whether or not they do any tinkering beyond that remains to be seen.
On Sunday afternoon, the Avalanche practiced at Ball Arena, and we got a pretty clear idea of what their opening night lineup against the Los Angeles Kings will be…
Jonathan Drouin – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Artturi Lehkonen – Ryan Johansen – Valeri Nichushkin
Miles Wood – Ross Colton – Tomas Tatar
Andrew Cogliano – Fredrik Olofsson – Logan O’Connor
Devon Toews – Cale Makar
Bowen Byram – Josh Manson
Sam Girard – Jack Johnson
Not too bad, right?
There were two extras on the ice, with Kurtis MacDermid being the extra forward, and Sam Malinski on defense. The 25 year old defenseman was sent to the Colorado Eagles after practice, though.
In addition to demoting Malinski, the team sent Ben Meyers to the Eagles this morning. They also made a surprising move, waiving Riley Tufte. The 6’6″ forward scored three goals in the preseason, and appeared to lock down a roster spot, but that’s now in question.
Do the Avalanche have their 21 man roster set for opening night? According to Jared Bednar…maybe.
“We’ll see,” Bednar said after practice.
Several good players were waived on Saturday that could be intriguing pickups for the Avalanche, and if Tufte clears, Colorado will have a lot of flexibility to move players up and down throughout the year. I’d be surprised if they carried just 6 defensemen to start the year, but you never know.
Let’s get to the rest of news from practice…
- Andrew Cogliano shed the non-contact jersey for practice today, but wasn’t quite ready to declare himself fit to play opening night. He said the fractures have healed, but he wants to make sure the muscles around the fracture are strong and that he feels confident when he plays a game.
- Fredrik Olofsson, as expected, appears to have locked down the 4C spot, although he doesn’t want to count his chickens before they hatch until he’s in the lineup on opening night. Still, he likes the fit with Logan O’Connor and Cogliano.
- “Oh, great,” Olofsson said of the fit with those two. “They are two guys that play with pace. Cogs knows what brings success in this league, and we’re going to try to bring a lot of puck possession, positive momentum, draw penalties, and then also try to score some ourselves.”
- Mikko Rantanen was back and is ready to go for opening night. Doesn’t sound like whatever he was dealing with was that concerning.
- “No need to push through now,” Rantanen said. “82 game regular season, so don’t want to risk anything in preseason, unnecessarily so.”
- Bowen Byram was back at practice and looked no worse for wear after taking the hit late in the game on Thursday.
- The top powerplay unit for the Avalanche is set, but the second unit will likely change up a fair bit, depending on who is playing well.
- PP1: Makar, MacKinnon, Johansen, Rantanen, and Lehkonen
- PP2: Toews, Drouin, Colton, Tatar, and Nichushkin, with Byram rotating in and out
- “It’ll settle itself out,” Bednar said of the second PP unit. “This year, we’ve got some forwards that have all played it. Tatar, Colton, Val is on that unit, Drouin. Plus, we still have those 3 D (Toews, Byram, Girard), so there’s going to be some healthy competition there. And if a guy’s having a bad night, we can substitute somebody else in.”
- For what it’s worth, the only two players I didn’t see get rotated out of the second unit were Toews and Nichushkin.
- Bednar reiterated that he has a lot of faith in Justus Annunen’s ability to start the season as a backup for the team.
- Brad Hunt and Jack Ahcan cleared waivers, and have been sent to the Eagles.
I’ll take a look at some players that were waived today that might be of interest to the Avalanche either later today or tomorrow morning. There are certainly some defensemen that would make sense for them to claim, but there’s other factors that go into that. The team has to be cap complaint on Monday afternoon.