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Avalanche Tweaks Lines Looking For Offense

Colorado players respond to the Cody McLeod trade

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--The Colorado Avalanche struggling on offense this season isn't anything new. With a team that has plenty of skill and talent to score, the continuous lack of consistency with goals has been somewhat perplexing.

The Avs have been getting some production recently from their top line with Nathan MacKinnon at center and Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen on the wings, but not much else on the roster. In an attempt to try and spread some of that offensive love around, the team made a slight revision to its top two lines at Friday's practice.

Colorado moved Landeskog onto Matt Duchene's line with Matt Nieto and placed Rene Bourque with MacKinnon's group during the hour-long session at Family Sports Center.

Duchene is one of those players that the team is looking for more from. While the center leads the club with 13 goals, he hasn't scored in his last five contests and only once in the past 12 games overall.

"Part of it is we have to be more than a one-line team in order to produce and win games," head coach Jared Bednar said of the line changes. "Obviously, Matt is that key guy, right? We've had Landy and Rantanen with MacKinnon; they've been really good. I would like to keep them together, but also we need to make sure that Matt's line is scoring, too.

"With the edition of Nieto, it gives us some speed there. Bourque has had success with Rantanen and MacKinnon too. So maybe giving him Landy, a little bit of a different look will hopefully spark those guys and give us some production on both of those lines."

Video: Coach Bednar's post-practice press conference

There is also now an additional opportunity in the lineup as the Avs made a trade with the Nashville Predators prior to practice.

About 90 minutes before the players took the ice for Friday's session, the club announced it had acquired forward Felix Girard from the Predators in exchange for Cody McLeod. Girard has been assigned to the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League, leaving an open roster spot at the NHL level.

McLeod had been playing intermittently on the fourth line, which has also recently had its three spots occupied by Joe Colborne, Mikhail Grigorenko, Andreas Martinsen and John Mitchell.

"There are a lot of guys that are kind of fighting for ice time there, and all of them have done a good job at times, just a little bit inconsistent--not excluding the top part of our lineup, either," Bednar said. "Obviously there is a spot there to earn, and hopefully someone can seize it and make the best of it."

Friday's announcement that McLeod had been traded was bittersweet for the franchise.

McLeod was in his 10th season with Colorado after signing with the team as a non-drafted free agent on July 6, 2006. He has 129 fights and his 1,359 penalty minutes are the most in Avs history and third most in the franchise's annals.

His dedication and hard work was a reason he was able to work his way up from being a minor leaguer to a regular in the NHL.

"I have a lot of respect for Cody. I played with Cody, I know what kind of guy he is and the class he competes with on and off the ice," said Avs executive vice president/general manager Joe Sakic. "I wanted to make sure that he was good with making a trade, giving him a chance to go to a contender and battle for a playoff spot. I was glad he welcomed the opportunity when it came up. In my opinion, he will always be a member of the Avalanche."

Duchene had been a teammate of McLeod's since the center broke into the league in 2009-10 and is now the longest-tenured member of the squad.

"We're going to miss Cody. Obviously, a great team guy, a guy that everybody loved. Funny guy, lots of energy," Duchene said. "We're in a tough spot this year (in the standings), so we wish him all the best and hope he does really well there."

Video: Duchene on McLeod being traded

This is Bednar's first season with the Avs and his first opportunity to get to know McLeod. The coach could tell how much the Binscarth, Manitoba, native meant to the organization and its fans after 659 games played, fourth most in a burgundy and blue sweater.

"First of all, Cody has been here for 10 years and has done a real good job for this organization," Bednar said." A real committed guy, a team guy. He gets an opportunity to go to a team that is in the playoffs, and hopefully gets a chance to win. I'm happy for him to get that opportunity."

Video: Landeskog reflects on the McLeod trade

Landeskog had been McLeod's teammate since his first game in the league as an 18-year-old rookie in 2011. McLeod had been an alternate captain and a member of the team's leadership group with Landeskog.

The Colorado captain said players could emulate the type of effort McLeod displays every day.

"He's a guy that has been through most of it all. He's a guy that is well liked by his teammates, and every single time he goes on the ice he plays hard," Landeskog said. "I think that is something that everybody can learn from that guy and something that they can take from his game, that he left it all on the ice. He's got one of the toughest jobs in the league and in the sport, and you saw it last night. It's not an easy thing to do, but he's only gotten better over the years. He's one of the best guys in the league that does what he does, and he's a quality guy."

The Avs players won't have to wait to long to see their old friend again. Colorado hosts Nashville on Saturday in a matinee that Semyon Varlamov will start in net.

"It's tough to see him go, but we'll see him tomorrow," Landeskog said.

It will be the fourth matchup between the Avalanche and Predators this season and the final time the clubs will play at Pepsi Center.

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