PHILADELPHIA--Joonas Donskoi will return to game action tonight when the Colorado Avalanche begins its five-game road trip at the Philadelphia Flyers.
Although he hasn't played since Jan. 7 at the New York Rangers, the rest of his teammates have also been away from the game for the past 11 days. The Avs, who are coming off their All-Star Break and league-mandated bye week, had nine full days off before they resumed practice on Thursday.
Donskoi missed Colorado's final five games before the break as he recovered from an upper-body injury that he suffered at the Rangers. Head coach Jared Bednar noted that Donskoi might have been able to play in the team's last game on Jan. 20, but Bednar opted to use the extra time to make sure Donskoi was fully ready to return to game action.
"It is fun to be back," said Donskoi. "It feels like I haven't played in a long time so its super fun. I feel 100 percent, so I just can't wait to get out there and get it going."
Video: Joonas Donskoi talks about returning to game action
The Finnish forward has 29 points (14 goals, 15 assists) in 44 games so far this season and will start on a line with Tyson Jost and Matt Nieto at the Flyers.
"We really like what he has done for us in a bunch of different situations this year, not only from a checking standpoint but pitching in on the offensive side of things," Bednar said of Donskoi. "He is getting more opportunity here, playing the power play, I don't see any reason why his offensive production won't continue."
The rest of Colorado's lines will be the same as its last outing as the squad will look to continue its streak from before the break. The Avalanche has won three straight and is 3-0-2 in its last five.
"It is so tight in the standings right now, every game is important," Donskoi noted. "Even though we just had the break, we need to be ready to go tonight 100 percent and be ready to get two points for a lot of this game."
The Flyers returned from their bye-week with a contest at the Pittsburgh Penguins last night, a game that saw Philadelphia fall 4-3 in overtime on the other side of Pennsylvania.
"They are a deep team, I like their team. I think it's fast, I think they have got a lot of depth," Bednar said of the Flyers. "They have a lot of scoring contributors from the backend and are getting good goaltending. Real good home team, numbers at home have been really impressive so I think a good start [is important].
"They have a game under their belts, it is a back-to-back and we haven't played yet, so I don't know if there is a clear advantage there. I think just going out for us, keeping it simple early, make sure we are getting to our game, getting our legs underneath us and trying to use our speed too our advantage will be key. But, they are a deep team. We need everybody going tonight."
Video: Bednar before returning to game action at the Flyers
GRUBAUER IN NET
Philipp Grubauer was the first Avs goaltender off the ice at today's morning skate at the University of Pennsylvania and is expected to be in net. The German netminder is 14-10-4 with a 2.82 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
It is the second and final meeting between Colorado and Philadelphia this season. The Avalanche won 3-1 in the first matchup on Dec. 11 in Denver behind two goals from Mikko Rantanen and 32 saves from goaltender Pavel Francouz.
VIEW: Avalanche at Flyers Projected Lineup
Colorado is 12-4-3 (.711) against Eastern Conference opponents, the best record of any Western Conference team against the East.
Samuel Girard is expected to play in his 200th consecutive regular-season game tonight. He will become the fourth Avalanche defenseman to appear in 200 or more straight games with the club, joining Martin Skoula, Karlis Skrastins and Brett Clark. Girard, who was acquired from Nashville as part of a three-team deal with Ottawa on Nov. 5, 2017, has not missed a regular-season contest since joining the Avs.
The Avs, who were 8-2-2 in October, 8-6-0 in November and 7-5-2 in December, finished 5-2-2 in January and have started a season with four straight months above .500 for the first time since 2003-04. Colorado was 4-0-2 at home in January, only the second time in the last 10 seasons that the club has gone an entire calendar month without a regulation loss at home (min 5 games). The Avalanche was 6-0-0 at Pepsi Center in January 2018.
The Avalanche ranked second in the NHL in goals-per-game (3.65) behind only Florida (3.67). Colorado has scored a league-high 57 goals in the first period and its 69 second-period tallies rank second.
Colorado won both matchups last year, sweeping a season series of at least two games from the Flyers for the first time since 1997-98.