Colorado Avalanche Looking at New Lines for Road Trip

The Colorado Avalanche face the Winnipeg Jets with new lines and a roster that’s limping along toward health.

As Colorado Avalanche players keep dropping like flies, the coaching staff is having to switch up lines again.

Ok, they don’t have to mix up all the lines, but what else is coach Jared Bednar going to do with his big blender? So, they mixed up three of the four lines at practice yesterday.

The top line of Nathan MacKinnon centering Matt Calvert and Joonas Donskoi has remained the same. For the second line, Nazem Kadri is still the center with J.T. Compher still on his wing. However, Valeri Nuchushkin has been promoted to the other wing position.

Now, normally this is where you’d cue my rant about Tyson Jost getting demoted, especially after what Bednar himself called a strong performance, and especially for a player who hasn’t had a goal in, like, 1,000 games. (It’s actually 86, but still.)

However, Jost is back on center. While it’s for the third line, I like him better at center than wing. His wings are Andre Burakovsky and Matthew Nieto, and I like that, too. He plays well with both those guys, and that really could be a strong line combination.

The fourth line now consists of T.J. Tynan, Vladislav Kamenev, and Jayson Megna. Brutal. Poor Kamenev — I can’t imagine this line will get a ton of ice time. Meanwhile, the Avalanche also called up Logan O’Connor from the Eagles. He played in five games for Colorado at the beginning of last season.

Meanwhile, Nikita Zadorov has returned to practice. Full practice with a mouth guard. He got two plates and screws in his mouth surgery a couple days ago. And he was chirping teammates.

What a warrior. He isn’t on the road trip yet, but Bednar has said he could join the group later. Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche also called up Kevin Connauton, though they ran the same pairings as during the Blue Jackets game:

Sam Girard-Erik Johnson

Ryan Graves-Cale Makar

Ian Cole-Mark Barberio

Side note: That second pairing perplexes me. Makar started out the year with Nikita Zadorov, and we knew that wasn’t going to last because the big Russian is only ever a wayward hit away from being in Bednar’s doghouse. Bednar then paired him with Ian Cole, whom he touted as a more vocal veteran for our prize rookie.

Then, Bednar scratched Cole in favor of Mark Barberio and promoted Ryan Graves to the second pairing. He’s called Graves’ play “up and down” after both games. Yet he’s paired him with our prize rookie.

How prize, you ask? I’m sure you’ve heard by now our young superstud was named an NHL star of the week:

In a post-practice presser, Makar remarked that he was “humbled” but that he didn’t really care because his focus was on keeping the team rolling.

Anyway, two other players are already with the group, and that could bode well for their speedy return. Both Philipp Grubauer and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare made the roadie with the Avs.

Grubauer was pretty much expected, though he didn’t practice fully with the team yesterday. Pavel Francouz is supposed to get the start against Winnipeg tonight.

Bellemare was completely unexpected. But look at him:

He looks pretty darn dapper and happy for a man who’s in the concussion protocol. Not surprisingly, he’s been diagnosed with a concussion after suffering a head hit from Columbus captain Nick Foligno, whiplash from the hit, and then hitting his head on the ice:

Foligno got a three-game suspension, which was a little surprising because he’s never been in trouble like this before. However, I’m going to guess his leaving his feet to make the hit earned him an extra game or even two.

I’m really glad to see Bellemare looking good. I know his going on the trip doesn’t necessarily mean anything because the Avs dragged Conor Timmins all around when he was still recovering from concussion. I also home Belly isn’t rushing anything because his health must be the #1 priority at all times.

Anyway, in final injury news, Mikko Rantanen test-skated before practice yesterday, but he did not make the trip. Neither Gabriel Landeskog nor Colin Wilson have been seen skating.

So, what do you think of the new line combinations and the Nick Foligno suspension?

Next: 4 Keys for Road Trip

How to Enjoy the Game

Game time: Nov. 12, 6:00 pm MT
TV: ALT, TSN3 (Jets’ feed)
Radio: Altitude Radio (AM 950/FM 950)

This is the first of four meetings between the two teams. The Colorado Avalanche are coming of a 4-2 win over Columbus on Saturday. Winnipeg is coming off a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars.

P.S. I am proud to report that Patrick Roy is as fiery as ever. He recently got ejected from a game between his Quebec Remparts and the Val D’or Foreurs for losing his temper with the officials.

😎Patty gonna Patty, and I’m still here for it.