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Compher Promoted To Top Line For Vegas

Forward will play with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog after Mikko Rantanen's injury

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--J.T. Compher will be the Colorado Avalanche player that gets the first crack in filling Mikko Rantanen's position on the club's top line.

Compher joined the Avs' top unit of Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog for the 45-minute practice on Thursday at Family Sports Center before the team left for the airport, and head coach Jared Bednar confirmed afterward that the trio will be together to start Friday's game at the Vegas Golden Knights.

"I want him to bring his speed and tenacity on the puck," Bednar said of Compher. "He's going to have to get mentally and physically engaged in the game right away. I look at his game in Tampa, and that line was really good, the [Tyson] Jost line, and he was the driving force and made a lot of plays with the puck, showed poise with the puck, used his speed in a bunch of different areas to help that line. I think MacK and Landy can use some of that."

Bednar has been pleased with his forward line combinations through the first nine games of the season and doesn't want to make major adjustments at this time in Rantanen's absence. Rantanen, who is tied for the team lead in scoring with 12 points, is week-to-week with a lower-body injury suffered in Monday's contest at the St. Louis Blues.

Video: Bednar before the Avalanche heads to Vegas

"I liked the way our lines played on that road trip," Bednar said. "We had some success last year with Compher playing with those guys. That's going to be our first go-to for tomorrow night. Same thing with the power plays, I would like to leave it as much as I can the same for a little bit. We'll see how long Mikko is going to be out. We're open to change. Just want to give this a crack before we do anything else."

Compher has played in six of Colorado's nine games and has a goal, three assists and a plus-4 rating. He will get the first chance at a position that could be fluid based on how the line plays and the situation in the game.

"Over the last few years I have played with a lot of different guys in a lot of different spots," Compher said. "For me when I get put in a new spot, it is not too different. Just trying to play my game, play with speed, hard on pucks, creating turnovers and the more I can get it in Landy and MacK's hands, the better we are going to be."

The only other change that Bednar made to his forward combinations was placing Valeri Nichushkin into Compher's previous spot on a line with Jost and Colin Wilson. Nichushkin has been a healthy scratch for the past four games.

Video: Compher on practicing with Landeskog and MacKinnon

On defense, Bednar said on Wednesday that he was planning on splitting up the defensive pairing of Cale Makar and Nikita Zadorov, and Thursday's on-ice session was the first look of the new blue line tandems. Makar skated with veteran Ian Cole while Zadorov was paired with Ryan Graves. The duo of Samuel Girard and Erik Johnson remained unchanged.

Goaltender Philipp Grubauer will make his eighth start of the season for Friday's 4 p.m. MT game. It is the first half of Colorado's second back-to-back set of the season, as the squad will host the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night at Pepsi Center.

The early, weekday start time is for "Nevada Day," a state holiday.

Forwards
92 Gabriel Landeskog - 29 Nathan MacKinnon - 37 J.T. Compher
95 Andre Burakovsky - 91 Nazem Kadri - 72 Joonas Donskoi
22 Colin Wilson - 17 Tyson Jost - 13 Valeri Nichushkin
83 Matt Nieto - 41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - 11 Matt Calvert - 81 Vladislav Kamenev

Defensemen
49 Samuel Girard - 6 Erik Johnson
28 Ian Cole - 8 Cale Makar
27 Ryan Graves - 16 Nikita Zadorov
44 Mark Barberio

Goaltenders
31 Philipp Grubauer
39 Pavel Francouz

Did Not Practice/Injured: Mikko Rantanen, lower body (week-to-week)

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