CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Before the Colorado Avalanche headed east to begin a five-game trip, the squad practiced at Family Sports Center on Friday morning.
The 30-minute session was the Avs' second since having nine full days off for the NHL All-Star Break and the team's bye week. The practice featured some situational scrimmaging and finished with a few special-teams drills. It was Nathan MacKinnon's first time on the ice with the club since the last game on Jan. 20, as he was given the day off on Thursday due to his break being shorter than his teammates while he represented the Avalanche at All-Star weekend in St. Louis.
Colorado has a league-most 11 days between games but will be able to get three skates in before returning to game action at the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
"Good juice again today, got some special teams work in. We got a quick morning skate tomorrow and ready to go," said head coach Jared Bednar. "I like the fact that we got a couple skates in before we have to play coming out of this break. I think last year we just had the one skate and then had to play, but especially this year's break was a little bit longer so it's nice to get a few skates in as a team."
The Avalanche won its final three games before the break and is 3-0-2 in its last five. The team defeated the Detroit Red Wings 6-3 in its last contest after MacKinnon and Nazem Kadri each scored twice.
Saturday's matchup with the Flyers will be Colorado's first outing since that win, and its first road game since Jan. 7. The Avs will then have two days before playing again at the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. That contest in western New York marks the start of a condensed schedule for the rest of the regular season that has the squad playing nearly every other day until the finale on April 4.
"I think it is important that, all things being equal, that we are playing a fresh lineup and guys that are rested," said Bednar. "At the same time, it just kind of depends on what kind of groove our team gets into, how healthy we stay. But, depth is going to be real important here with 33 (games) in 64 days going into the playoffs. Lots of back-to-backs, there are a lot of hockey games to be played so we are going to need all these guys to be taking care of themselves and staying healthy."
After the games in Philadelphia and Buffalo, the Avalanche continues the trip with stops at the Ottawa Senators, Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild before heading back to Colorado for five games.
After the session, head coach Jared Bednar gave an update on Colin Wilson. The forward last played on Oct. 26 versus the Anaheim Ducks and has been out with a lower-body injury since getting hurt during the club's practice on Oct. 29.
"He has had his couple surgeries, and he is doing his recovery work," said Bednar. "Comes in all the time to do what he can in the gym, he is working his upper body now and doing mostly rehab stuff still on his lower body, still on one crutch."
Wilson has registered four assists in nine games this season, and it is unclear if he will be able to return to game action this campaign.
"I think that is still to be determined. Depends on how long the season goes and how his rehab goes," said Bednar. "If it is a situation like [Ian] Cole where he gets back early, I guess there is a possibility, timeline works."
PRACTICE LINE COMBINATIONS
92 Gabriel Landeskog - 29 Nathan MacKinnon - 96 Mikko Rantanen
13 Valeri Nichushkin - 91 Nazem Kadri - 95 Andre Burakovsky
11 Matt Calvert - 41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - 37 J.T. Compher
83 Matt Nieto - 17 Tyson Jost - 72 Joonas Donskoi - 81 Vladislav Kamenev
27 Ryan Graves - 8 Cale Makar
49 Samuel Girard - 6 Erik Johnson
16 Nikita Zadorov - 28 Ian Cole
44 Mark Barberio
31 Philipp Grubauer
39 Pavel Francouz
Did Not Practice: Colin Wilson (lower body, out indefinitely)