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MacKinnon On Playoff Mittelstadt: ‘He Looks Right At Home’



Avalanche Mittelstadt

When you acquire a big piece at the trade deadline with 0 games of NHL playoff experience, you never really know what you’re going to get when the most important time of year rolls around. Heck, Nathan MacKinnon didn’t even really know anything about Casey Mittelstadt when the Avalanche acquired him at the trade deadline.

“I didn’t know much,” MacKinnon told me today after practice. “I knew who he was. I knew he was really skilled and a good player, but definitely learning more.”

Through two games, Casey Mittelstadt has been good. Really good. He certainly doesn’t look like a guy who hasn’t played a playoff game since High School.

Right now, Winnipeg is having a tough time even leaving their zone when Mittelstadt is on the ice. The Avalanche are controlling 65% of the shot attempts with their #2 center out there, and 68% of the scoring chances. Playing with Valeri Nichushkin doesn’t hurt, but for most of Game Two, Nichushkin was on the top line. Colorado is getting a lot out of the Mittelstadt/Lehkonen combination, and that’s a good omen moving forward.

“He’s playing really hard,” MacKinnon said of Mittelstadt. “I mean, he’s really good defensively. I think in the first couple of games, it’s a heavy series and he looks right at home, so it’s awesome to see. That line has been awesome, and we definitely need him to keep it up.”

That line will likely look a little different in Game Three. Nichushkin spent practice with MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, while Zach Parise moved down to the second line with Mittelstadt and Lehkonen. Colorado has controlled most of the play through two games, and aren’t really worrying about what the Jets are going to do.

“Yeah. I mean, we’re just focusing on ourselves pretty much,” Lehkonen said. “We know what we got to do to be so successful out there and just trying stick to that and we trust that the outcome will come.”

Other News And Notes

  • Justus Annunen returned to practice after being out with an illness the last few days. While warming up, he looked like a guy who had been dealing with something the last few days, taking a few extra seconds to get up and just looking tired. As practice went on, he started to look more and more comfortable. “It’s a step forward,” Jared Bednar said after practice.
  • Also practicing was Sam Girard, who has been out with the team for full skates over the last week. I asked Bednar if they’re waiting for medical clearance at this point, or if it’s up to Girard right now. Sounds like it’s up to the player.
    • “We’ll just wait for him to make sure that he’s feeling right and feeling like he can go,” Bednar said.
  • I had a good chat with both Joel Kiviranta and Caleb Jones after practice about what they do to stay ready when they’re not in the Avalanche lineup. Both have a very clear understanding of their roles with the team, which is what you want out of depth players. Look for that today or tomorrow.
  • Avalanche players know that Jets fans weren’t cheering for them in Games One and Two, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t love the whiteout and the energy in the arena. “That was cool. I had goosebumps,” Kiviranta told me. Jones called it “intense.” I certainly felt the energy, and all the player fed off of it.

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