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Morning Skate Report: New-Look Second Line Aims To Boost Offense

Avalanche hosts Blackhawks to begin back-to-back set

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

Needing a little more offensive juice from his team during a tight game against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night, Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar mixed up two of his line combinations to generate more chances.

Alexander Kerfoot and Colin Wilson moved up to the Avalanche's second line with J.T. Compher midway through the second period, and the trio had the energy that Bednar was looking for to help push Colorado to a 2-1 victory.

Based on their play, the Avs bench boss said the three forwards "earned the right to go back together" for tonight's game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I want to see them repeat what they did late in the game the other night," said Bednar after today's morning skate at Pepsi Center. "I thought all three of those guys were skating, playing hard, playing through people. Good details, hungry on pucks."

The Compher-Kerfoot-Wilson combo didn't find the back of the net in the win against Montreal, but the trio did have its fair share of scoring chances by being hard on pucks in the offensive zone.

"We played with speed, we played north, we were able to get our forecheck going," Compher said of his line's play in the second half of Wednesday's contest. "That is how we get our scoring chances, creating turnovers on the forecheck."

Video: Compher on his recent play before hosting Chicago

Colorado's top unit of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen recorded both markers against the Canadiens and now have a combined 60 goals and 155 points on the campaign--the highest scoring total in the NHL through a club's first 35 games since 1995-96.

The Avs know what they're going to get from their top group and now need the new-look second line and the other two combos to follow suit.

"I think we just have to keep momentum going, shift to shift, line to line," Compher said. "I think the top line usually gets us going in the right direction, and we just have to keep the pressure on them and continue to get scoring chances."

Video: Jared Bednar before hosting the Blackhawks

While the Blackhawks had a tough start to the campaign, they've started to find some consistency in their game as of late. Chicago defeated the Dallas Stars 5-2 on Thursday and is 3-1-1 in its last five contests.

"They're finding their way. I've watched parts of their last three games, and they've been good," Bednar said of the Hawks. "They've been really good in some areas. I think their star players are working hard, they have a lot of young legs and young kids with skill that skate hard."


The Avalanche recalled defenseman Anton Lindholm from the American Hockey League's Colorado Eagles this morning to fill the void left by injured defenseman Nikita Zadorov.

Zadorov is day-to-day with a muscular, lower-body injury and will miss both contests of Colorado's back-to-back set.

Enter Lindholm, who is no stranger to the NHL. He has played in 60 career contests with the Avalanche since being picked by the club in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Draft. He has five assists in 20 AHL games this year with the Eagles.

"We're getting good reports on him and good views on him down there," Bednar said of Lindholm. "It's good to get him back. We know he's not going to cheat us from his effort and try. That is what we need, someone to skate and play hard."

Video: Anton Lindholm on joining the Avalanche

The Skelleftea, Sweden, native appeared in a career-high 48 outings last year with Colorado, and that experience should help him in his latest NHL stint.

"There is less to think about before entering a game, for sure," Lindholm said. "Knowing the staff and knowing the system, it doesn't create a whole lot of question marks from my part. Just go out and play.

"I've been working on my puck skill and just slowing everything down. That is what I want to show."

Lindholm will be paired on defense tonight with Patrik Nemeth, a spot that was previously held by Zadorov.


The Avs begin their sixth back-to-back set of the season this evening against the Blackhawks before heading to Arizona to play the Coyotes on Saturday night. Tonight's contest is the last of Colorado's four-game homestand, the longest to date this season for the squad.

The outing against the Coyotes is also the end of a stretch that has the Avalanche playing six games in nine days. The club is currently 2-1-1 through the first four contests.

"We know the importance of these games at home, especially getting close to the midpoint of the season," Compher said. "We'll be ready to go. We have two games and then a few days off. There is no excuse to not be ready to go tonight."

Following the game in Arizona, Colorado will have four full days off as part of the league-mandated holiday break. The team will return to action on Thursday with a contest at the Vegas Golden Knights.

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