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Lineup Decisions Coming For Avs

Colorado looking for top line right wing after Rantanen's injury

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar is reluctant but changes are coming to his forward combinations and defensive pairings.

The Avalanche has roughly used the same alignment for each contest this season and the results have mostly been positive with the club sporting a 7-1-1 record through the first eight games. The club's next lineup alterations are due to necessity as Miko Rantanen is week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

"I would like to leave the lines as much of the same as I can with the success that we've been having, but you lose a guy like Mikko then things need to be shuffled as well," Bednar said.

Bednar said Rantanen will be reevaluated next Tuesday or Wednesday after the forward got hurt on Monday in the first minute of the second period against the St. Louis Blues.

Rantanen's absence leaves an opening on the right wing spot on the top line with center Nathan MacKinnon and left wing Gabriel Landeskog. The trio has been together for nearly two full years now and have each produced career campaigns in back-to-back seasons.

Bednar said he's considering several different options right now for replacing Rantanen on that No. 1 unit.

"It's not a position that a lot of guys have been in," Bednar said. "We've had [J.T.] Compher in that position in the past, and on occasion he has done a nice job. [Joonas] Donskoi is obviously an option."

Video: Jared Bednar gives an update on Mikko Rantanen

The Avalanche mostly worked on special teams during Wednesday's practice, so the squad's exact combinations for Friday's matinee against the Vegas Golden Knights likely won't be known until Thursday's on-ice session or just prior to game time.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ian Cole and Compher were also absent from practice, but Bednar said each of the three players should be available come Friday, noting they were given maintenance days.

One change that Bednar will make will be on defense, splitting up the pairing of rookie Cale Makar and Nikita Zadorov. The two players had played together on the backend in eight of Colorado's nine games this year.

"We're confident in what those guys can do, but we're going to look at splitting them up," Bednar said of the defensive duo. "I think it's been a significant amount of time playing together and we haven't seen as much as we would like to see from either one of them as a pair. We'll try move things around a bit, see if we can catch a spark."

The Avs' game on Friday in Vegas is the last stop of a season-long, six-game road trip. The team earned seven of a possible 10 points (3-1-1 record) thus far on the trek that featured five games in eight days.

Not every victory was perfect during the club's trip that had it playing games in Washington, Pittsburgh, Florida, Tampa Bay and St. Louis, and captain Gabriel Landeskog said that's not necessarily a bad thing at this time of the year.

"I think we're finding different ways to win hockey games," Landeskog said. "That Tampa game was really good, start to finish, in my opinion. But other than that and even when we were winning before that, we had some good periods and we had some periods that weren't as good. There are some good and bad with every game. The biggest takeaway I guess is finding ways to win hockey games, whether you got a lead or coming from behind. It's important to start feeling good at the start of the year here, and especially with a bunch of new guys."

The Golden Knights are the Avalanche's next test as it's the team's final stop on the road before beginning a three-game homestand on Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks.

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