After being mostly healthy through the first portion of the season, the Colorado Avalanche is now missing multiple players from its roster and the team is viewing the adversity as an opportunity for its depth to shine.
The Avs announced prior to practice on Tuesday that captain Gabriel Landeskog is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. About 20 minutes after practice started, forward Colin Wilson left the ice.
According to head coach Jared Bednar, Wilson tweaked something and will not be available for when the team hosts the Florida Panthers on Wednesday.
In addition to being without Landeskog and Wilson, the Avalanche is also missing right wing Mikko Rantanen. Rantanen is week-to-week after he suffered a lower-body injury at the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 21, and Bednar said after Tuesday's practice that Rantanen will not be available to play for the next couple games.
"We just went from having no injuries and a healthy lineup and having to make some tough decisions on who we were going to leave out of the lineup every night to all of a sudden now we got three racked up in the matter of a couple days. I mean this is why you have the depth," Bednar said. "This is why [general manager Joe Sakic] went out and signed a significant amount of guys in the off season and we are confident that we can win with the lineup that we will put on the ice tomorrow night."
Video: Coach Jared Bednar gives updates on injuries
Having a few skaters out of the lineup is an opportunity for the team's depth to shine. The Avalanche has had scoring throughout its roster during the first four weeks of the season, with nine players recording three or more goals through the first 11 games.
With Landeskog and Rantanen sidelined with injuries, Nathan MacKinnon was without his normal linemates and centered a unit with Nazem Kadri and Joonas Donskoi during Tuesday's practice session.
"It is an opportunity. Obviously a couple guys out and there are some minutes on the table for people to take advantage of," said Kadri. "You know, we have been talking about how good our depth is all year and now is a perfect example to show it."
Kadri, who has seven points (five goals, two assists) so far this campaign, has spent most of the season on a trio with Andre Burakovsky and Donkoi but will likely play with MacKinnon and Donskoi versus the Panthers.
"MacKinnon will stay at center, doesn't mean he won't play with Kadri, I think he is going to," Bednar said. "If you look at what Landy and MacK, they kind of trade out at the faceoff circle there, Landy is really good at the left, so I see a similar situation there with Kadri where they can alternate on faceoffs and then just play. If Kadri arrives low in the D-zone then he can stay low. It is a very similar situation for MacK, I believe with Kadri there instead of Landy, part of the reason why we are going to give it a try."
Burakovsky practiced with Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher on Tuesday while the threesome of Matt Nieto, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Matt Calvert remained intact.
The other combo consisted of Valeri Nichushkin and Vladislav Kamenev alongside Wilson, but when Wilson left the ice, defenseman Ryan Graves switched jerseys and took his spot on that line as the team worked on a few more 5-on-5 drills.
"We have a significant amount of players that want more and feel like they are playing real well, and I am hoping that they strive in situations like this and prove that they can take on a bigger role," said Bednar. "They know that things will change when players come back into the lineup but having everyone sort of dig in and try and step up their game and make up for the guys that are out of the lineup is an important piece to winning, especially if you are going to try and sustain it over the course of the season.
"I think from talking from some of our guys, they are positive--as am I and the coaching staff--that we have enough that we can win hockey games here even with these guys out of the lineup."
With the Avs down to 11 healthy forwards, the team recalled Jayson Megna from the American Hockey League's Colorado Eagles on Tuesday afternooon.
PRACTICE LINE COMBINATIONS
Nazem Kadri - Nathan MacKinnon - Joonas Donskoi
Andre Burakovksy - Tyson Jost - J.T. Compher
Valeri Nichushkin - Vladislav Kamenev - Colin Wilson*
Matt Nieto - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Matt Calvert
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Cale Makar
Nikita Zadorov - Ryan Graves
*left practice early
Did Not Practice: Gabriel Landeskog (lower body), Mikko Rantanen (lower body)