The Colorado Avalanche will have one of its top scorers back in the lineup tonight as it visits the Central-Division rival St. Louis Blues.
After missing his first game of the season with a lower-body injury on Tuesday, right wing Mikko Rantanen will return to game action when the Avs make their second trip in two weeks to Scottrade Center in St. Louis tonight.
He will play on the right side of a line with Gabriel Landeskog and Alexander Kerfoot, a combo that was put together after Nathan MacKinnon left Colorado's game at the Vancouver Canucks with an upper-body injury on Jan. 30.
"You're missing a handful of guys to injury and we did a nice job stepping up last game but to have a guy like that can be a game breaker, that can get you some offense, I think is key," Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar told reporters after morning skate. "[The Blues] are a stingy defensive team, and you got to work for everything you get.
"To have a guy that might be able to make a play and score you some, or get you a chance or two, I think is key. And Mikko obviously has the ability to do that. He was really good in here last game, especially in the final two periods."
Rantanen logged 20:33 of ice time and had eight shot attempts when the Avs last saw the Blues on Jan. 25 in St. Louis. Colorado dropped the contest 3-1 after allowing two power-play goals.
The 6-foot-4 forward is second on the team with 50 points and 33 assists, and his offensively abilities will be needed as the Blues are fourth in the NHL in goals against per game, allowing an average of 2.54 per outing.
"The key for us tonight is to get that start. We have been a really good team when we score the first goal, when we come out and we are ready to play and play with a little more poise and execution to start the game," said Bednar. "That's our goal tonight. We got to put 60 minutes together and then chips will fall where they fall. I think we have the ability to win this game, but we have to make sure it's a 60-minute effort."
The Avalanche is 25-4-2 this year when scoring the first goal, tied for the second-most wins and fifth-highest winning percentage (.806) in the NHL. The Avs have gotten on the scoreboard first in 12 of their last 16 games.
With Rantanen coming back to the lineup, Colin Wilson will move back to the Avalanche's second line with rookies Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher. After morning skate, Bednar said that Colorado's healthy scratches will be forward A.J. Greer and defenseman Andrei Mironov.
Jonathan Bernier will get the start in goal. Puck drop is set for 6 p.m. MT.