The hits, and injuries, keep coming for the Colorado Avalanche.
For the first two-plus months of the season, the Avs seemingly have gone through a cycle of getting a healthy player back, only to see another one fall with an ailment. That was definitely the case during the team's three-game sweep of its recent road trip that pushed its win streak to six straight.
Colorado got Matt Calvert (head) back on Wednesday at Toronto, saw Andre Burakovsky (upper body) and Gabriel Landeskog (lower body) make their returns Thursday in Montreal and added Vladislav Kamenev (illness) on Saturday in Boston, but the Avalanche lost Nazem Kadri (lower body) after Wednesday's contest and both goaltender Philipp Grubauer and defenseman Cale Makar to injuries during the last game at the Bruins.
Kadri and Makar won't play this evening when the Avs begin a three-game homestand versus the Calgary Flames, and Grubauer could be the backup to starter Pavel Francouz. All three are listed as day-to-day, with Makar out with an upper-body injury and Kadri and Grubauer dealing with lower-body ailments.
"It sucks to see guys go down with injuries, but the goal doesn't change," said Landeskog. "The goal is step on the ice every single night and win a hockey game. That is what it is. We got complete faith with everyone that we have in the locker room, and whoever is on the ice will do their job. We would like to be healthy all the time, but the reality of the matter is that it won't happen."
Kadri, who has missed two games previously, participated in a portion of Colorado's morning skate in a red, non-contact jersey, and Grubauer also took to the ice to get some work in. Makar did not skate, but Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said there is a possibility that the defenseman returns to the lineup this week during the Avs' home stay.
Video: Bednar gives injury updates before hosting Calgary
This is Makar's first injury of his professional career, while Grubauer missed five games earlier this season with a lower-body injury. Adam Werner has been recalled from the American Hockey League's Colorado Eagles to provide goaltending support for Francouz, while Calle Rosen will fill a defensive spot after being a healthy scratch for the past two games.
"We've done it all year, rebounded and have found ways to win games with bodies down. Tonight is no different," said Ryan Graves, who has been Makar's defensive partner recently. "We trust our depth. We think it is one of our strengths. We've showed that we have depth up front and now it's time to show that our D-core has it as well."
Video: Graves discusses Colorados defense before hosting CGY
Makar was hurt early in the third period on Saturday after taking a hit from the Bruins' Brad Marchand. He remained on the ice until Colorado was able to gain possession before heading to the locker room; he did not return.
Makar leads all rookies and ranks tied for second among NHL defensemen in scoring with 28 points (eight goals, 20 assists) in 29 games. He was named the league's Rookie of the Month for November after producing 16 points (seven goals, nine assists), the most by a rookie defenseman in any month since Alexei Zhitnik registered 19 in March 1993 with the Los Angeles Kings.
"He finds a way to contribute every night, and most of that is getting us in and out of our zone, using his skating ability to do that, as well as in transition to be a part of it and getting us playing on the right half of the ice," Bednar said of Makar. "That is a big minus out of our lineup with him out tonight for sure and maybe for the next couple games."
Grubauer was injured after making a save late in the first period of Colorado's 4-1 win at Boston and left the ice at the ensuing whistle, which came from Valeri Nichushkin scoring to tie the game at 1-1 with 2:45 left before the intermission. The Avs keeper was able to finish the contest on the bench as the backup.
Grubauer had won his previous three starts and has recorded a 1.82 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in his past four games.
Colorado enters the matchup against the Flames with 90 man-games lost to injury or illness. Fifteen Avs players have already missed time this year.
"We're still a good team with guys out, but we're a much better team with everybody healthy obviously," said Nathan MacKinnon, who has stepped up offensively during this period with 45 points on the season. "It's great to have Mikko (Rantanen, who missed 16 games earlier with a lower-body injury) and Gabe back. We still got guys in and out right now, but to have those two guys is a huge help."
In addition to Grubauer, Kadri and Makar, Erik Johnson is out with a lower-body injury he suffered from being pushed headfirst into the boards by Alexander Kerfoot on Nov. 23 against the Toronto Maple Leafs--a play that resulted in a two-game suspension--and Colin Wilson is set to have surgery to help fix a lower-body issue after getting hurt during practice on Oct. 29.
Calvert missed Saturday's contest in Boston while on a person leave of absence, but it wasn't related to the head injury that forced him to miss six games from Nov. 19-30. He will play tonight when the Avs wrap up their season series versus the Flames.
To make room for Calvert and Werner, the Avalanche reassigned forward T.J. Tynan to the AHL's Eagles after morning skate.
Colorado's six-game winning streak is a season high and matches the longest current run in the NHL (Washington). It is the team's longest stretch since winning six straight last year (Nov. 18-28, 2018). Colorado is 11-3-0 in its last 14 games, the NHL's second-best record since Nov. 7.
The Avs are looking to become the first Western Conference team to reach 20 wins this season (Washington and Boston have in the East). This would be the third-fastest Avalanche team to reach 20 wins in a season, trailing only the 2013-14 squad (27th game) and 2000-01 (28th).
Calgary is the first Western Conference opponent to finish its season series with the Avs in 2019-20. The Avs are 2-0-0 against the Flames this year, winning 5-3 on Opening Night (Oct. 3) at Pepsi Center and 3-2 on Nov. 19 at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Ryan Graves is tied for second in the NHL in plus/minus (plus-19). The next closest Western Conference player is his own teammate, J.T. Compher (plus-13). Graves has been a "plus" player in six straight games, going a combined plus-10 during this stretch.
Pavel Francouz ranks fifth in the NHL in save percentage (.931) and is seventh in goals-against average (2.24). He has won his last five decisions, going 5-0-0 with a 1.88 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.
Joonas Donskoi needs two goals to tie his career high (14 in 2017-18 and 2018-19), and Andre Burakovsky's 12 goals have matched his total from each of the last three seasons.