Mikko Rantanen is back. Gabriel Landeskog is traveling with the team and may play on the road. Nathan MacKinnon is playing some of his best hockey ever. The top line is almost one hundred percent. Matt Calvert and Andre Burakovsky are nearing their returns.
The Colorado Avalanche has managed to persevere through some major injuries and still win games. Cale Makar was named the NHL’s “Rookie of the Month” and MacKinnon was deemed one of the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the month of November. They were 8-6-0 in November without Rantanen or Landeskog. Upon each healthy return, will they mix right back into the lineup or will it take some time?
Rantanen’s First Game Back
Missing some key players, the Avalanche found it tough enough to face a home-and-home series against the Chicago Blackhawks. However, the stress was lessened a bit by the return of Rantanen to the top line. After an almost six-week absence, would he fit right back in or take a bit to reconnect with a new linemate? He answered those questions by scoring four points in the 7-3 win over the Blackhawks on Nov. 30.
Suffice it to say, Rantanen came back with a vengeance. Bednar chose not to extend his play by sitting him in the third period since they were already up by five goals. “He tweaked his leg a little bit a couple of times and started to get a little tired, so I didn’t see a reason to bring him out for the third in a 7-2 game,” Bednar told NHL.com independent correspondent Rick Sadowski. “He’ll be ready to go.”
Wondering how his resurgence affected the rest of the team? “Mikko’s amazing, he makes everyone on the ice so much better,” MacKinnon told Sadowski after the game. “He’s one of the best players in the world. He’s so young still (23), he’s going to get so much better. It’s fun having him back out there.”
The Avalanche are a tight-knit squad, so they miss those guys who are part of their energy. MacKinnon clearly expressed that after the game. Even though they were still winning games, those types of players make the club even stronger.
Following Landeskog’s red jersey, non-contact practice on Monday, Dec. 2, Bednar told the media he is travelling with the team but no exact date for his return has been decided. “We want to get him in some practices, get him working with the guys and then we’ll make a decision on which day we want him to go out,” Bednar said of Landeskog in his post-practice conference. “We’ll be in communication with him and we’ll make a decision together.”
Following medical examinations after losing to the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 26, a lower-body injury was determined and Landeskog was placed on the IR. Up to that point, he notched three goals and four assists in 11 games played.
Not only is Landeskog a key point man and goal scorer, but he’s the captain. He leads the team on and off the ice. His presence at Monday’s practice was electric and the energy of the team was ignited. If that’s clear in practice, what kind of sparks will fly come game time?
Calvert Travels with Team
Matt Calvert has missed the last six games recovering from a head injury he suffered against the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 16. It was a controversial situation as he took a puck to the head causing him to fall to the ice bleeding, but play was not stopped.
Luckily, the injury was not more severe and he’s almost ready to get back on the ice. During the Dec. 2 practice, he played in full gear and Bednar confirmed he will be travelling with the team and could possibly play in Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the 20 contests he played in before his injury, he scored five goals and assisted on seven others for 12 points.
“In order to come back, you have to go through (concussion) protocol and you have to have a bunch of good days in a row,” Calvert told coloradoavalanche.com’s Ron Knabenbauer. “This is my first test in practice, we have a travel day tomorrow and day off. As long as the response is good, I’m hoping to be in the lineup as soon as possible.”
Burakovsky May End Up on Road Trip
Andre Burakovsky didn’t return to the ice for the third period in the win over the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 27 due to an upper-body injury. He did not practice before the team hit the road, but coach Bednar said he did work out that day.
“He’s progressing hopefully here,” Bednar said following Monday’s practice. “He won’t come on the road trip to start but there’s a possibility he’ll meet the team.”
Healthy and Happy December Holidays?
What seemed like an endless wave of injuries is becoming a distant memory as the team proceeds to get healthy and players return to the lineup. The storm isn’t over yet. The clouds are starting to part and there is some light shining on the Avalanche. Hopefully the IR will only have Colin Wilson listed on it by the end of December as he is due to undergo surgery soon. A healthy and successful team is every fan’s wish for the holidays.
With a Mass Communications and Journalism degree from Florida International University, I completed internships with the Florida Panthers Hockey Club and Sports Illustrated. I’ve published several articles for various outlets, including one in ESPN Magazine and one on espn.com.