CENTENNIAL, Colo.--With Friday's news that Gabriel Landeskog is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with an upper body injury, the onus goes to his Colorado Avalanche teammates to help shoulder the load in the club's playoff push.
"It's going to be a great opportunity for some guys," said head coach Jared Bednar. "We need some guys to step up here and elevate their game. Guys like (Alexander) Kerfoot and (Tyson) Jost will get more opportunity, everybody will get more opportunity."
Bednar did a mass adjustment of his forward lines during the club's 30-minute practice at Family Sports Center, trying new combinations with the absence of their captain for the remainder of the regular season.
Landeskog had played with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen for most of the season and for the past two contests, but the remaining players on that line will likely start Saturday's game against the Buffalo Sabres on different units. MacKinnon practiced with Derick Brassard and J.T. Compher, while Rantanen skated on a wing of a Carl Soderberg-centered line that also included Colin Wilson.
Alexander Kerfoot, Tyson Jost and Matt Calvert made up another forward group, while Colorado's fourth line was a combination of Gabriel Bourque, Andrew Agozzino, Sheldon Dries and Sven Andrighetto, the same as it was in previous outings.
"Every time you miss a guy, you're looking for other guys that could possibly step in and do that job or you have to rearrange things," Bednar said. "So that is what we're trying, we're trying to rearrange some things and see if we can find some magic with guys split up on different lines and see if guys can elevate their game."
Landeskog was having a career season prior to getting hurt in the third period of Thursday night's game at the Dallas Stars, posting new personal bests in goals (33), points (69) power-play makers (10) and game-winning tallies (10).
Brassard is one of the players Bednar said will get more opportunity while Landeskog is out. The forward has two goals in his first six games with the Avs since being acquired at the trade deadline on Feb. 25.
"A lot of guys are going to [get a] bigger role with the team, and so we're going to have to step up and play well," Brassard said. "Tomorrow with MacK and J.T., we're going to have to play better than the line we're [matched up] against. Try and score some goals and try and keep the puck out of our net."
The Avalanche begins a four-game homestand on Saturday and looks to take advantage of its final nine outings at Pepsi Center to earn a playoff spot. Colorado is four points behind the Minnesota Wild for the second wild-card position in the Western Conference.
"We just have to take care of our business," Bednar said. "It's an uphill battle from here on out, there is no question, but I still think we're capable of winning our fair share of hockey games. It has to start tomorrow."
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov was a full participant in Friday's practice and will play against the Sabres after missing the Avs' previous game.
Zadorov didn't make the trip to Texas after suffering an upper-body injury in Tuesday's contest versus the Detroit Red Wings. After leaving briefly, he was able to return to the contest against Detroit but wasn't able to play in the following outing.
"That is a silver lining, no question, because we didn't know exactly how long he would be out when we went out on the road," Bednar said of Zadorov. "He was getting evaluated, just like Landy was this morning. We know what our record is with him in the lineup, we know what he brings. I think you get in a game like last night against Dallas, you miss him… They started pushing us physically and we didn't really respond."
The blueliner leads Colorado in hits this season with 179 and is looking forward to getting back to that physical play.
"Obviously that is my game, make sure those guys hate to play against me," Zadorov said. "That's the goal. When their frustrated against you, you're just having fun out there. That is what I'm trying to do every game."
PRACTICE LINE COMBINATIONS
Derick Brassard - Nathan MacKinnon - J.T. Compher
Colin Wilson - Carl Soderberg - Mikko Rantanen
Alexander Kerfoot - Tyson Jost - Matt Calvert
Gabriel Bourque - Andrew Agozzino - Sheldon Dries - Sven Andrighetto
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth - Nikita Zadorov - Ryan Graves
Center Derick Brassard on the Buffalo Sabres: "They've improved a lot from last year. They have good players with a lot of talent. I think they improved their defense a lot too. Now they just got Brandon Montour from Anaheim, he's a good player. (Marco) Scandella from Minnesota. They drafted (Rasmus) Dahlin, that is obviously going to help your team. I think they are over .500, so it's going to be a big challenge for us. They're in the same position as we are, it's going to be a good game. We got to take care of our own game first and play a little bit better."
Video: Derick Brassard talks after practice
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov on the final weeks of the season: "It's the most important time of the year, for sure. Now everything is on the line. We're a few points behind in the playoffs. All those teams, we're going to play them a few more times: Dallas, Minny, Arizona. It's a big push for us."
Video: Nikita Zadorov on being healthy again
Head Coach Jared Bednar of the team's leadership: "You don't have to have a letter on your jersey in order to lead in the locker room. Right now, we need guys leading by example more so than what they say."
Video: Bednar gives an update on Gabriel Landeskog