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Projected Lineup: Avalanche at Penguins

Colorado rotating defensemen now that everyone is healthy

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

PITTSBURGH--Mark Barberio and J.T. Compher will be back in the Colorado Avalanche lineup tonight as the club continues its road trip at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Barberio returns to game action following a one-game, healthy-scratch stint on Monday due to Ian Cole making his season debut. Cole will remain in the lineup and will be paired on defense with rookie Cale Makar, while Barberio is expected to play with Ryan Graves.

Nikita Zadorov is the odd-D-man out tonight. Head coach Jared Bednar is trying to keep all of his blueliners fresh, and he has liked what he's seen from Barberio and Cole in the games that they've played in.

"We have 14 forwards, eight D here right now, so it's down to their performance," Bednar said of his roster decisions. "We're evaluating it every day and trying to put out our strongest lineup every game.

"I just watch all of our D play, and there are areas where I think that [Zadorov] can improve on. We got to make a decision if I want to get Barberio back in, and [Zadorov] happens to be the guy (out) tonight."

Barberio skated in last Thursday's game against the Boston Bruins and on Saturday versus the Arizona Coyotes, playing more than 15 minutes in each outing. Cole's game on Monday at the Washington Capitals was his first since having offseason surgery on both of his hips, and he finished the contest with a plus-2 rating in 15:57 of ice time.

"I thought he had a real strong game," Bednar said of Cole. "Real poised back there, physical, able to close plays out. He was good on the penalty kill and his puck movement was good as well. I liked what I see from him."

Compher's return comes after he's missed the last three games with a lower-body injury, but the forward has been skating and been a full-participant in practice for nearly a week now. He will play on a Tyson Jost-centered line that also includes Colin Wilson. Valeri Nichushkin will join Zadorov, Kevin Connauton and Vladislav Kamenev as the scratches.

Philipp Grubauer was the Avalanche's first goalie off the ice and will make his fifth start of the season. He made 29 saves on Monday at Washington.

Tonight's game at PPG Paints Arena is set to begin at 5 p.m. MT, and it will be a nationally televised contest on NBCSN. It's also the second stop on Colorado's six-game road trip, the longest of the season for the club. The Avalanche, which opened the trek with a 6-3 win on Monday at the Capitals, will also play at the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, St. Louis Blues and Vegas Golden Knights before returning home to face the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 26.

Below is the Avalanche's projected lineup for this evening's contest. All forward combinations and defensive pairings are subject to change.

92 Gabriel Landeskog - 29 Nathan MacKinnon - 96 Mikko Rantanen
72 Joonas Donskoi - 91 Nazem Kadri - 95 Andre Burakovsky
37 J.T. Compher - 17 Tyson Jost - 22 Colin Wilson
83 Matt Nieto - 41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - 11 Matt Calvert

49 Samuel Girard - 6 Erik Johnson
28 Ian Cole - 8 Cale Makar
27 Ryan Graves - 44 Mark Barberio

31 Philipp Grubauer
39 Pavel Francouz

Scratches: Kevin Connauton, Vladislav Kamenev, Valeri Nichushkin, Nikita Zadorov

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