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No Ordinary 'Third Line'

by Scott Ward / Colorado Avalanche

Patrick Roy raised a few eyebrows this summer with his anointment of Nathan MacKinnon as his third-line center for the 2013-14 season.

As the first-overall selection in the 2013 draft, MacKinnon obviously stood a good chance of sticking with the club this year—although Tampa Bay’s third-overall pick Jonathan Drouin was reassigned to his junior club last month—but a prevailing thought following the draft was that MacKinnon would need to showcase his worth during preseason camps before getting the official, “He’s in.”

But Roy knew what he had in MacKinnon, whom Colorado plucked as a 17-year-old, and he knew he’d be a perfect piece on an Avalanche team looking for a fresh start.

“We don’t want Nathan [to] come here to be our savior,” Roy said in September, during the Avalanche’s Media Day. “We want Nathan to be the best player he can be. We believe in him, [and] we’re extremely happy to have him on our team.”

So far, Roy’s prediction has been spot on. MacKinnon and PA Parenteau and Jamie McGinn have been Colorado’s best offensive unit early on.

Parenteau scored his first two goals of the season Friday night—one late in the first period and the second with an empty net late in the third—and MacKinnon and McGinn dished out an assist apiece, giving the trio four goals already this season (McGinn had two on Opening Night) and nine combined points overall.

That’s a pretty good pace for a group featuring a teenager who was in the Quebec Major Junior League last year (MacKinnon) and two players in Parenteau and McGinn who combined for 65 points in 48 games in 2012-13.

“We’re trying our best,” Parenteau said. “MacKinnon brings a lot of speed, a lot of talent, and Jamie does his thing. He plays a strong game, [with] a good shot, and I’m trying to do my thing, too. It’s been working so far, and hopefully we’ve got more coming.”

Parenteau’s first score Friday came at 18:50 in the first period, coming from a bounce off Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne after a strong shot from McGinn, who got the puck a second earlier from MacKinnon.

“It was a great play by Jamie,” Parenteau said. “I tried to feed MacKinnon, and it bounced over, and [McGinn] caught it with his glove and brought it down and [got] a good shot on net, and I was there to get the rebound. I was licking my chops on the side there.”

Parenteau, who scored 18 goals last season after signing with Colorado as a free agent in July 2012, lit the lamp again at 18:48 in the third period Friday after Nashville had pulled Rinne for a 6-on-5 advantage.


Marc-Andre Cliche

It didn’t take long for Marc-Andre Cliche to make an impact with the Avalanche.

The 6-foot, 200-pound forward from Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec appeared in his first game with the Avalanche on Friday and picked up an assist on Patrick Bordeleau’s tip-in score at the 7:54 mark in the second period.

It was just the second NHL appearance for Cliche, who played in one game for Los Angeles in the 2009-10 season and was claimed off waivers by Colorado last month from the Kings.

His pass to Nate Guenin along the right-side wall allowed Guenin to slip a quick wrister into the crease, and Bordeleau was in perfect position for the deflection.

It all started with Cliche, though, who was a healthy scratch Wednesday but played Friday and continued a strong early season for Colorado’s fourth-line unit.

“They were playing hard, they were physical—this is a great fourth line for us,” Roy said. “I’m almost sad to call them a ‘fourth line,’ but they are playing hard for us.”


Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog didn’t play Friday after suffering a leg injury Wednesday against Anaheim. He sat out Thursday’s afternoon practice at Family Sports Center, and Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said he thought Landeskog might have had a chance to play against Nashville.

He didn’t and is listed as day-to-day.

“I know [Landeskog] came to the bench at some point [Wednesday] and talked to Matty (Avalanche head athletic trainer Matt Sokolowski) about the legs—something was wrong with his leg—but he kept going,” Roy said. “[Friday] morning he already mentioned he’s feeling so much better. I think it’s very positive.

“We think he’s going to start skating on Sunday. He will be part of the [road] trip, starting with next week.”

John Mitchell stepped into Landeskog's spot in the lineup, as he joined the Avs' second line with Paul Stastny and Alex Tanguay. Mitchell scored one of Colorado’s six goals in Wednesday’s win against Anaheim.

Cliche, a scratch Wednesday, was Roy’s only lineup addition Friday, moving into Mitchell’s spot and assisting on what was ultimately the game-winning goal from Bordeleau.

“I don’t really want to mix things right now,” Roy said. “I think Mitchell will be solid with [Paul] Stastny and Tanguay. It will be a great line, especially with a short-term injury like he has. There’s no reason for us to make big changes here.”

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