Gabriel Landeskog loves playing on the same line with center Paul Stastny. The two have a chemistry developed, on and off the ice, and it has paid dividends for the Colorado Avalanche.
“Pauly and I got together in training camp, and we’ve played together ever since,” said Landeskog, the Avalanche captain and left winger. “It’s been fun because when you play so much together you sit down after games, you watch video, that develops chemistry.”
Who plays with them depends on the game or the situation. That may seem disruptive, but the Avalanche has been successful mixing and matching lines all season, whether it’s by choice or by injury.
Mostly, it’s done by feel. If head coach Patrick Roy senses a need to juggle his lines he does, and his players are fine with it.
“We’ve done it all year," Stastny said. "When things aren’t going well [Roy] will try to switch lines up and if doesn’t work he’ll switch it up agaig. It
doesn’t come as a surprise to us. Because we’ve had all those injuries we’re used to playing with different guys. Sometimes you need a little change.”
Roy did it in Thursday’s 5-4 overtime win in Game 1 against Minnesota. Needing two third-period goals to tie it, he flipped Nathan MacKinnon and Jamie McGinn, moving the rookie to Stastny’s line and put Ryan O’Reilly at center with P.A. Parenteau and McGinn.
It paid off when O’Reilly’s steal in the Wild zone resulted in McGinn scoring to make it 4-3.
“It’s more of a feeling,” Roy said. “Last game it worked well.”
Injuries forced Roy’s hand much of the regular season, but the silver lining is the players have learned to play with different line combinations and different players. It showed at the end of regulation in Game 1, when six Avalanche players were on the ice for a three-minute shift before the tying goal and moved the puck confidently.
“It’s been like that all year," Parenteau said. "We had some minor switches here, but it doesn’t matter who you play with. You try to do your thing and try to play your game. Usually you play with pretty good players when you play up front around here. It doesn’t really matter.”
The Avalanche still hasn’t scored a power-play goal against the Wild this season. Colorado was 0-for-11 in five regular-season games vs. Minnesota and then was blanked on four opportunities in Game 1. Roy credited Minnesota’s penalty killers and said his team may need to score a blue-collar goal to break through.
“We might have to take more shots from the top, but this is a team that blocked a lot of shots and they’re well coached,” Roy said. “We may have to do it a little more the hard way. Jumping on those rebounds and trying to go that way. A lot of goals on the power play are point shots with a screen in front of the net and, bang, the rebound is there and you put it in.”
Roy said Saturday morning that center Matt Duchene, out since spraining his left knee March 29, is “very doubtful” to play in this series even if it goes the distance. Duchene was the Avs' leading scorer during the regular season and was projected to be out roughly four weeks. Today is exactly three weeks since he was hurt against San Jose.
“I don’t think we will see Matt in the series. I would be very, very surprised,” Roy said after the morning skate. “He hasn’t started skating yet. I don’t think we will see him.”
He also said center John Mitchell (head) is considered day-to-day but is not close to playing.
“He hasn’t started to ride the bike,” Roy said. “He’s not ready to play.”
Roy said he has no lineup changes for Game 2, which means defenseman Stefan Elliott, Ryan Wilson and Cory Sarich will be scratched. Sarich is recovering from a back injury.