The Colorado Avalanche practiced for the third day in a row on Saturday before making the trek to Southern Nevada to play the first of four straight scheduled games against the Vegas Golden Knights. The Avs play the Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday and Tuesday before the clubs meet in Lake Tahoe on Feb. 20 and at Ball Arena on Feb. 22.
Vegas will be the first opponent to ever play the Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques four consecutive times in the regular season. The Avs and Wild were supposed to face off in four uninterrupted meetings from Jan. 30 to Feb. 4, but the final game of that stretch was postponed.
Sunday's matchup will be Colorado's first game since earning a 2-1 victory against the Wild on Feb. 2. After that outing, the squad went into an eight-day layoff with the team on pause and in quarantine due to the league's COVID-19 protocol.
Prior to the temporary shutdown, Colorado had six players on its injured list and since returning to the ice three of those skaters have been able to get back to practicing with the team. One of those players is forward Nathan MacKinnon, who missed that Feb. 2 game against Minnesota with a lower-body injury.
He leads the team with 14 points and 12 assists in 10 games this season and says he feels good and will play in the first matchup of the year against Vegas.
"It was tough, but I had a lot of exercises to do," MacKinnon said of rehabbing his injury by himself. "I feel really, really good coming back. I feel like I haven't had any rust or anything, so I am excited to start. Hopefully get into a rhythm here and start playing every other day again."
Video: Nathan MacKinnon playing against Vegas
Vegas leads the West Division with 17 points, but the Golden Knights have also had a pause of their own while in league protocol from Jan. 27-Feb. 2. Since then, Vegas has gone 3-1-0 and plays at the San Jose Sharks on Saturday before beginning the set with Colorado.
The Avalanche won the two meetings between the clubs last year, both at T-Mobile Arena, outscoring the Golden Knights 13-4 (6-1, 7-3), and Colorado has won the last four contests in this series.
Sunday's outing marks the 11th time that the Avs will play on Valentine's Day. Colorado sports a 5-4-1 record on the day and has won its last two Valentine's Day matchups, defeating the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 on Feb. 14, 2019 in Manitoba and the Montreal Canadiens 2-0 on Feb. 14, 2018 in Denver.
20 Brandon Saad - 29 Nathan MacKinnon - 96 Mikko Rantanen
95 Andre Burakovsky - 91 Nazem Kadri - 72 Joonas Donskoi
13 Valeri Nichushkin - 37 J.T. Compher - 25 Logan O'Connor
12 Jayson Megna - 41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - 15 Sheldon Dries
36 T.J. Tynan - 10 Miikka Salomaki - 61 Martin Kaut
7 Devon Toews - 8 Cale Makar
4 Bowen Byram - 27 Ryan Graves
34 Jacob MacDonald - 22 Conor Timmins
2 Dan Renouf - 88 Kyle Burroughs
9 Dennis Gilbert
31 Philipp Grubauer
32 Hunter Miska
30 Adam Werner
Nathan MacKinnon on the MacKinnon Krunch cereal: "It's cool. Obviously I'm not sure how its selling, but I've had a couple pictures sent to me and people seem to like it."
Ryan Graves on what he did during Colorado's temporary pause: "It's definitely weird to have that time off in the middle of a season. Didn't really do much, pretty much all of us are just staying inside a lot right now and keeping our exposure to the least amount possible. I was working out in the gym in my condo building, and we went on some walks and a couple hikes and things like that but for the most part just kind of laying low and basically just waiting to start up again."