We got a hint of it prior to the All-Star break, but it appears the Colorado Avalanche are not going to be afraid to rotate defensemen down the stretch.
On Monday, the Avalanche recalled youngster Sam Malinski from the Colorado Eagles. On Tuesday, he will enter the lineup, replacing veteran Jack Johnson on the blueline. Colorado did this same thing just prior to the break against the Washington Capitals, and I anticipate we’ll see a lot of it down the stretch.
Against heavier teams, they’ll dress Johnson, who sits at 6’1, 227 pounds, and isn’t afraid to throw his body around. When the Avalanche play against more mobile teams that aren’t going to physically attack them, Malinski may get his chance. And if they don’t want to make a change, they don’t have to. At least now, they have options.
The 25 year old Malinski has forced Colorado to use him at the NHL level because of how well he has played. In 22 games this season, he has managed to pick up three goals and register 10 points. He’s also been surprisingly steady in his own end, and has earned the trust of defensive coach Nolan Pratt. His underlying metrics aren’t great, but neither are Jack Johnson’s or Caleb Jones‘, so it makes sense to rotate players down the stretch and keep everyone fresh. Not to mention injuries will occur and everyone will be needed at some point.
Justus Annunen will get the start in net, as he attempts to win the backup job in Colorado.