COLUMBUS, Ohio--The Colorado Avalanche returned to the ice on Sunday for practice at Nationwide Arena, shaking off the scent of Saturday's 3-2 comeback win over the Minnesota Wild and working on some new line combinations.
Rookie forward Mikko Rantanen and Norwegian bruiser Andreas Martinsen finished Saturday's victory being centered by Nathan MacKinnon, and they were back together for Sunday's session. The line scored two huge goals in final frame and will remain a unit for Monday's contest at the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"I think we saw some real good things [with] them working together. Maybe it's a little bit more familiarity, but you see the way they're using each other, especially even on that first goal," head coach Jared Bednar said of the combination. "They create a chance from behind the net, in Rantanen and MacKinnon. It doesn't go in, and then you have the return pass again where Rantanen scores. I think when you start seeing things like that, you want to try and keep that chemistry together, and hopefully they can build some more."
Another trio at practice featured AJ Greer and Matt Duchene on the wings and Carl Soderberg in the middle.
"I liked that line in practice today. I thought they worked well," said Bednar. "It will be the first time they're together, but Carl had a good game the other night. AJ has been making plays and going to the net hard, so it looks like it could be a good mix for us."
The grouping depends on the status of Duchene, who has been out since Nov. 13 with concussion-like symptoms. Although he's been feeling good for consecutive days, Duchene still isn't sure of his status for Monday's matchup.
"Obviously we had a day off there [on Friday], so I couldn't get on the ice and see, but yesterday and today I'm feeling pretty good," Duchene said. "It's still one of those things [where] I'll be a game-time decision, kind of figure that out. I'd say I probably I feel the best since I got hurt. So yeah, it's getting better."
Video: Matt Duchene gives an update on his status
Duchene's potential return to the lineup is something Bednar is monitoring before he finalizes the rest of the roster for the game against the Blue Jackets. If Duchene can play, he'll be skating with Greer and Soderberg.
"There's adjustments because hopefully Matt's back. He looked like he felt pretty good today," Bednar said. "We'll evaluate him again tomorrow, and if he's back in the lineup then things change, obviously. He's going to juggle everything up because you add a guy like that back into the lineup and people are bound to get moved around."
The Avs worked on a few things to start off practice, and finished with some 2-on-2 mini games to get the blood pumping, the legs moving and the competitive juices flowing. The team now gets to wait for Columbus, which played at the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
"That hopefully gives us a little advantage. Again, I think it's mostly about us," Bednar said. "It's us making sure that we're prepared to continue to play the same way. After a win has been a problem for us. Hopefully we learned a little bit of that from Dallas. We played well and came back the next night and played well again. So maybe we're starting to figure that out a little bit.
"We've got to make sure we have a good start because Columbus starts real well. We've got to be ready from the drop of the puck, but hopefully we bring what we did last game and continue it on here tomorrow night."
With a win, Colorado could return to .500 on the season, but it won't be easy. The Blue Jackets are now 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and have won four in a row.
"Yeah, they're playing well. They're scoring. They've got some guys having big years," Duchene said. "They're feeling it right now, so we're just going to have to come in and play our game and show the resiliency we've had the last couple games."
While Duchene is a game-time decision, the Avs will have netminder Semyon Varlamov in net when the puck drops on Monday.
"We're going back to Varly," said Bednar. "I think they're both playing well. Pick went in last night and did his job, got us a big win. He played real well, but Varly played real well in Dallas too. He got an unlucky break on the one goal, and then we had two major breakdowns that they scored on. In the areas they got to on those, you expect those to go in. So a lot of big saves when we needed them in the last two periods, and even his two games previous to that. I think he's been real good for us."
There is no update on captain Gabriel Landeskog, who is out with a lower-body injury.