Colorado Avalanche: Analyzing Upcoming Line and Defensive Combinations

DENVER, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 07: J.T. Compher #37, Matt Nieto #83 and Ryan Graves #27 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate a goal against the Nashville Predators at Pepsi Center on November 07, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 07: J.T. Compher #37, Matt Nieto #83 and Ryan Graves #27 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate a goal against the Nashville Predators at Pepsi Center on November 07, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche will have to run new line combinations and defensive pairings because of players returning from and leaving because of injuries.

The Colorado Avalanche’s revolving door of injuries continues to be in effect*. One player returns, another leaves.

According to Jared Bednar, captain** Garbriel Landeskog visited the doctor for an MRI yesterday, so we may know more later today.

Defenseman Erik Johnson didn’t practice yesterday after taking that bad hit from former Av Alexander Kerfoot. He’s said to be sore and questionable for the Oilers game.

Matt Calvert remains in the concussion protocol. He apparently has his good days and his bad days.

Colin Wilson is still sidelined with a mystery injury he suffered in practice the same day it was announced Landeskog was injured. Bednar said he was “not close” to returning.

That’s the bad news. But we do have some good news — star winger Mikko Rantanen is close to returning. He might even play on Wednesday, though Saturday is more likely.

But, all these injuries have left the Colorado Avalanche in a constant state of flux with their line combinations and defensive pairings.

After practice yesterday, Ryan S. Clark of The Athletic tweeted the lineup from practice:

The middle Compher on the second line is supposed to be Kadri.

Forward Lines

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Now, the main change in this lineup is Tyson Jost moves up to wing on the third line over T.J. Tynan. And that’s how it should be because as much as Jost isn’t a wing, he’s much more of an NHL wing than Tynan.

Now, if/when Rantanen returns, that’s going to shake up the top line. I’m going to guess the team will leave Andre Burakovsky on that top line because he’s found chemistry with Nathan MacKinnon. Joonas Donskoi will probably drop down to the second line.

So, what would that second line look like? Well, that’s a tough question because Bednar absolutely adores both Matt Nieto and J.T. Compher. However, Compher is his favorite, so I’d expect Nieto to be the one to drop to the third line.

What should happen then is Jost takes over the center position with Vladislav Kamenev and Valeri Nichushkin as his wings, though I’d love to see Nieto in one of those spots. They’ve played well together in the past.

What will happen is Bednar will drop his favorite whipping boy down onto the AHL line. He’ll reunite Nieto with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and keep his new Gourque, Nichushkin, on the third line.

Well, keep reading before you scroll down to the comments section to leave a nasty note. I’ll be a little more serious about the defensive pairings.

Defensive Pairings

The hope is that Erik Johnson is just sore and not actually injured. So, maybe he misses the Oilers game on Wednesday (not ideal) but is back for the home-and-home games against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Meanwhile, the Avalanche did recall Calle Rosen from the Colorado Eagles. Will he make his first regular-season appearance? Hard to say. Even without Rosen, the Colorado Avalanche already had a backup defenseman in Mark Barberio.

According to the above lineup, Nikita Zadorov has been promoted to the top pairing with Sam Girard. Ryan Graves is back with Cale Makar, which is weird because Bednar effectively benched Graves in the Toronto game. That said, they had previously shown chemistry.

A pair that’s really shown chemistry, though, is Girard and Makar. If that’s the future of Avalanche defense, sign me up.

Meanwhile, Ian Cole… he’s already sat out a game as a healthy scratch. I wouldn’t mind seeing him sit another, but that’s doubtful as that would leave Zadorov and Barberio as the veterans of the group.

Nonetheless, Bednar did express his displeasure with the entire blueline for essentially all of November. So, I’d expect to see at least a little shakeup.

Next. Burakovsky at Home in Colorado. dark

*Side rant: A lot of Avs fans keep saying, “It’s good the Colorado Avalanche are getting the injuries out of the way early.” Did they forget the 2014-15 season when we were second only to Columbus the entire season in man games lost? The hockey gods haven’t allocated a set number of lost man games for each season — we could easily just see players dropping like flies the entire year.

**Side rant 2: Hockey reporters and announcers have been a little loosey goosey with the term “captain.” They’re called both Erik Johnson (Wild announcers) and Nathan MacKinnon (the actual “Colorado Avalanche captain.”. They’re acting captains, and that’s how they should be referred to in Landeskog’s absence.