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Grigorenko Promoted To Top Line

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

MONTREAL—The Colorado Avalanche didn't want to break up its top forward line of Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, but the NHL forced the team's hand.

The league announced Friday that it had suspended Landeskog for two games for an illegal hit to the head of Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand in the Avs' game on Thursday night. The club’s captain will miss tonight's contest against the Montreal Canadiens and Tuesday's in Toronto versus the Maple Leafs before being eligible to return on Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Filling Landeskog's spot on the line this evening will be Mikhail Grigorenko, who saw playing time with Duchene and MacKinnon during the game against the Bruins. He had been on the fourth line with Ben Street and Jack Skille earlier in the contest.

"I thought they did well together in Boston," Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said of his new top trio. "I'm curious to see how they do tonight."

Grigorenko helped set up the game-winning goal against the Bruins early in the third period, as he received the puck along the wall and attacked to the front of the net before feeding Duchene in the slot for the score.

"I think so, and I guess the coaches saw it too," Grigorenko said of the possibility of having some early chemistry with Duchene and MacKinnon. "We scored a goal together. Obviously, he was in a good spot and he called for it and I saw him. I guess we can call it a little bit of chemistry there. Hopefully, I'll be able to set him up again tonight."

While Grigorenko is not as established of a player as Landeskog, the two forwards are similar in stature. The Russian Grigorenko is just a bit taller at 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, while the Swede Landeskog is 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds.

Grigorenko said he thinks he'll fit just fine on the line.

"Just got to be myself and not try and change my game or anything," he said. "Just be real comfortable with them, and I think we'll be good."

Roy coached Grigorenko in junior with the Quebec Remparts and said while he isn't the fastest skater and could be more physical in his one-on-one battles, the forward is an offensive threat with the puck.

"What he brings is great IQ, great hands, and he's has a real good shot," Roy said. "When he is capable of putting it on net, he is always a very dangerous forward."

The suspension of Landeskog came from an incident that resulted in a match penalty at 5:46 of the second period. Following the hit, Marchand punched Landeskog straight in the face and was given a two-minute roughing penalty. The NHL later fined him $5,000, the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Marchand was not hurt on the play and finished the game.

It is the first suspension of Landeskog's career. He has only missed 13 career games during his five seasons in the league, all of which due to injury.

"That is the direction the NHL wants to go, and I guess we have to accept the decision and move on," said Roy of the losing Landeskog for the next two outings before turning the focus to the Canadiens.

"We have a good game here tonight. We are playing against a team that has good speed up front. They have a great transition game. I would rather focus on that then suspension, and it's a team that has two real good goaltenders. Their young guy is playing really well for them. We'll have to play a solid game here tonight if we want a chance to win the hockey game."

Colorado's lone healthy scratch last game was Dennis Everberg, but he will return to the lineup this evening. Everberg is expected to be in Grigorenko's position tonight on the fourth line.

BERRA IN NET

Berra

Reto Berra will make his fourth consecutive start in net tonight for Colorado.

The Swiss goaltender is 2-1-0 in his previous three games, winning each of the last two. He made 25 saves in both the 3-0 shutout win in Philadelphia on Tuesday and 3-2 victory in Boston on Thursday.

Berra, who has a 3-3-0 record in seven contests this year, leads the league in both goals-against average (1.58) and save percentage (.948).

MORNING DELIGHT

For the third time on the Avalanche's seven-game road trip, the team went to the arena the morning of the game. Colorado held a morning skate at Bell Centre since the squad didn't have a full formal practice on Friday.

Head coach Patrick Roy and the players have decided to do away with the game day ice session in the morning, unless the team doesn't have a full practice the previous day.

The Avs have mostly followed that through the first month of the season, though there have been some exceptions. Colorado practiced on Monday in Denver but also held a morning skate on Tuesday in Philadelphia. On Thursday in Boston, the Avalanche just had meetings and a light workout at the rink.

MORE PREGAME NOTES

Blake Comeau is expected to appear in his 500th NHL game tonight. He needs one point to reach 200 career points.

Tyson Barrie is expected to play in his 200th NHL game tonight.

Jarome Iginla is tied with Peter Stastny (1,239) for 37th place on the all-time scoring list.

Matt Duchene has five points (three goals and two assists) in two games so far on this road trip. He scored the game winner and had an assist in Thursday's victory over Boston, after recording a season-high three points (two goals and an assist) in Tuesday's win over the Flyers. Duchene now has six goals and nine points in his last six games.

Nathan MacKinnon has six points (two goals and four assists) in his last five games. He leads the Avs in points (16), assists (10), game-winning goals (three), plus/minus (plus-6) and shots (58).

PROJECTED LINEUP

Mikhail GrigorenkoNathan MacKinnonMatt Duchene
Blake Comeau
Carl SoderbergJarome Iginla
Cody McLeod
—John Mitchell—Andreas Martinsen
Dennis Everberg
Ben StreetJack Skille

Francois BeaucheminErik Johnson
Nick Holden
Tyson Barrie
Brandon Gormley
Nate Guenin

Reto Berra
Calvin Pickard

Scratches: Zach Redmond, Gabriel Landeskog (suspension) and Semyon Varlamov (groin injury).

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