PHILADELPHIA--A small illness is going through the Colorado Avalanche roster, and it will force the team to play with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for this evening's game at the Philadelphia Flyers.
Colorado usually plays with the typical 12 forwards and six D-men, but head coach Jared Bednar will have to rearrange his lineup with wingers Rocco Grimaldi and Matt Nieto both sick and unable to play.
Bednar's changes include Nikita Zadorov returning to game action after being a healthy scratch for the past three games and some shuffling among the forward groups.
The Avs activated Gabriel Bourque from injured reserve on Saturday morning after the forward missed the past week with an upper-body injury that he suffered on Oct. 27 at the Vegas Golden Knights.
Bourque will take Nieto's spot on the team's third line with Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau, while Nail Yakupov will be in Grimaldi's old spot on a combo with Matt Duchene and Sven Andrighetto.
Recalled from the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League on Oct. 22, Bourque said it was a bit frustrating to get hurt so soon after joining the NHL club but is excited to be back in the lineup and play with Comeau and Soderberg
"For sure, the guys are really good," Bourque said of his new linemates. "They've played pretty well the last few weeks. I'm just going to play my role, just simple. They both work really hard and pretty good with the puck, so try to get the puck to them."
Video: Gabriel Bourque returns to the lineup in Philly
Yakupov skated on a line with Duchene earlier in the season, but he has recently been the veteran presence on a combo with rookies A.J. Greer and Alexander Kerfoot. The addition of Yakupov on the Duchene-centered line should make an already fast group even faster.
"I think we have good speed," Yakupov said. "We've played a couple times together, but we haven't played much. The game is going to be simple because we know what we're going to do, and we're going to play with the system--all the lines play the same way."
Greer and Kerfoot will still be on the team's "fourth line," with several different forwards rotating in one of the wings. The Avs' top combination of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen remains unchanged.
On defense, Bednar will begin tonight's game by having Zadorov playing with Anton Lindholm and Mark Barberio on the top pairing with Erik Johnson. Rookie Andrei Mironov will be the extra rear guard that will dress.
"With seven, it's going to be a little bit of a blender back there again tonight," Bednar said. "We're going to start Barberio playing with Johnson a bit. We have some analytics that say in the time they spend together, they've been pretty good. They played a little bit last year, so we're going to work that out as much as we possibly can for part of the game, anyway."
Defenseman Chris Bigras will be the Avs' lone healthy scratch, the third-straight contest he'll sit and watch.
Video: Nail Yakupov before Avs vs. Flyers
Avs goaltender Semyon Varlamov will get the start versus the Flyers after recording 57 saves in the Avs' 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. Jonathan Bernier is scheduled to start in Sunday's contest at the New York Islanders.
Tonight will be the third of 11 back-to-back sets that the Avs will play this season. Colorado presently owns 1-1-0 records in both the first and second games of the consecutive-day contests.
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar after morning skate in Philly
After the outing on Sunday in Brooklyn, the team will fly to Stockholm, Sweden, for another back-to-back against the Ottawa Senators. The contests on Nov. 10-11 are part of the SAP NHL Global Series and will be played at the Ericsson Globe arena.
"We got two games before we go. If we're already in Sweden then we're going to be in trouble," Bednar said about his team's mindset while still stateside. "These are two tough buildings to come into. We got to narrow our focus here on tonight in Philly, a team that comes out hard in their own building. So the start is going to be important."
The Avalanche and Flyers will meet one more time in 2017-18, as the clubs face off in Denver on March 28. Philadelphia won both matchups last year.
WORKHORSE ON THE BACKEND
Defenseman Erik Johnson played a season-high 29:22 on Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes, the third most minutes of his career.
Johnson has logged at least 20 minutes in every contest this season and ranks seventh in the league in average time on ice with 26:02. He leads the entire NHL in shifts per game with 32.8.
"The job that he's tasked to do every night, he's basically on the ice against the other team's top line every chance we get," Bednar said of Johnson. "And then playing against some of the other lines as well to continue that ice time, so we can get him back out there. Tonight, probably a little easier job for him with seven guys back there, but he's been impressive."
The Bloomington, Minnesota, native's career high for ice time was 30:25 that he recorded on Nov. 15, 2014, at the New Jersey Devils.
PROJECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Sven Andrighetto - Matt Duchene - Nail Yakupov
Gabriel Bourque - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau
A.J. Greer - Alexander Kerfoot
Mark Barberio - Erik Johnson
Patrik Nemeth - Tyson Barrie
Nikita Zadorov - Anton Lindholm