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Avs Relying On Depth After String of Injuries

Avalanche falls in overtime to Wild while suffering another injury

by Callie Parmele @CallieParmele / ColoradoAvalanche.com

One of the main buzzwords surrounding the Colorado Avalanche before the 2020-21 season began was "depth" and the team is now getting a chance for that to be displayed in action.

After losing veteran defenseman Erik Johnson to an upper-body injury in Saturday's contest at the Minnesota Wild, the Avs leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon did not play in the third period of Sunday's game due to a lower-body injury. Head coach Jared Bednar did not have an update on MacKinnon postgame.

Colorado began the outing with 11 forwards due to salary cap restraints and with MacKinnon in the training room for the final frame, the team was down to 10 forwards in the third period but continued to fight for its chances before falling 4-3 in overtime to Minnesota at Xcel Energy Center.

"I feel like there were opportunities tonight that we just couldn't capitalize on," said Cale Makar. "We are obviously getting hit by the injury bug here, but at the end of the day we have so much depth so it shouldn't really mean too much to us. I think guys can come in and fill roles that we need them to play. Tonight, it is what it is, I know we will come back stronger."

MacKinnon and Johnson join four other veterans on the Avalanche's injured list as forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (lower body) and Matt Calvert (upper body), defenseman Devon Toews (lower body) and goaltender Pavel Francouz (lower body) are all working on recovering from their own ailments. 

"It is what it is, better to go through it now than in May and June and in the playoffs," said captain Gabriel Landeskog. "We will figure this out, and we will keep working. There is no other way for me to [say] this than we are going to keep working. The guys that we have in the room, we have plenty of depth to beat the Minnesota Wild today and we just didn't play well enough. Obviously, you look at that locker room and yeah we got a heck of a squad in there, but we are also missing six veteran guys. But nonetheless we have plenty of depth to win this hockey game."

Video: Gabriel Landeskog postgame interview in Minnesota

When injuries hit, opportunities are presented to players that are looking for more responsibility and prospects that are wanting a chance to crack the lineup.

Colorado saw some of its players seize their opportunities in the 2019-20 season and 2020 playoffs when the team also went through several stints with long injury lists.

"I think we are playing hard, and we're getting some bad luck. There are positives that come out of it," said Bednar. "I think last year we learned fighting through adversity and injuries that other guys elevated their game and were able to help us win hockey games, and it made us fight for every point that we had. It gives guys experience in different situations; we're seeing our whole taxi squad is up playing at this point, and it's good experience.

 "Would I like to have our guys healthy and be playing our full lineup? Absolutely. But that's not something that I can control as a coach or that we can control sometimes as even players, things happen. We are just going to have to fight through it and move on. No one is going to feel sorry for us or any other team that runs into injury troubles or COVID-related absences. It is what it is." 

Bednar did not have any timelines for when guys could start returning to the lineup, but he did have some updates.

"I know this, Toews stayed back [in Denver] for further evaluation," Bednar said. "I think we will get some information on him tomorrow, but that still might not tell me when he's back in, it's when he's feeling good or when he's able to come back in. For me, no news is probably good news on that front. E.J. just went out, so I don't think he is going to be rushed back into the lineup here. He is going to miss some time.

"I heard Bellemare is feeling pretty good. He's encouraged by his progress over the last few days, but I am not expecting him back for the next couple games against Minny that's for sure, like it's days or weeks. Frankie, same thing. I think we will get more information on Frankie here early this week, Monday, Tuesday. He is a lot like Toews--we'll get a better idea of when we are going to be able to get him back on the ice and get him playing."

Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar after the OT loss in Minnesota

KADRI HITS 400

Nazem Kadri assisted on Brandon Saad's tally in the third period to record the 400th point of his NHL career. In 622 contests in the league with the Avs and Toronto Maple Leafs, the London, Ontario, native has 183 goals and 217 assists.

Kadri is the seventh player from the 2009 NHL Draft class to hit the milestone. So far this campaign, Kadri has three goals and four assists in 10 contests.

Video: COL@MIN: Saad strikes off the pipe, takes lead

MacDONALD MAKES AVS DEBUT

Defenseman Jacob MacDonald played in his first game as a member of the Avalanche, and he recorded four shots on goal and one hit in 10:58 of ice time.

Colorado re-signed the Portland, Oregon, native last March after he produced 42 points (16 goals, 26 assists) in 56 outings with the American Hockey League's Colorado Eagles in 2019-20. He has totaled 164 points (58 goals, 106 assists) in 238 career AHL contests with the Springfield Falcons, Albany/Binghamton Devils, Springfield Thunderbirds and Eagles.

Sunday's game was his first NHL contest since Oct. 11, 2018 when he was with the Florida Panthers.

AVALANCHE GAME NOTES 

The Avalanche finished 3-for-3 on the penalty kill, extending its run of consecutive kills to 22. The Avs' NHL-best penalty kill unit is now 33-for-36 (91.7 percent) this season.

Colorado wrapped up its second of seven back-to-back sets of the season and is 1-0-1 in the second game of consecutive night sets.

Sunday's game was the second time this season the Avs have played beyond 60 minutes. Colorado is now 1-1 in overtime in the 2020-21 campaign.

Cale Makar scored his first goal of the 2020-21 season and now has 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) this season, tied with Vancouver's Quinn Hughes for the most among all NHL defensemen.

Video: COL@MIN: Makar puts on the moves, ties the game

Brandon Saad tallied his fourth goal in the past four contests and has produced seven points (four goals, three assists) during his four-game point streak.

Saad and Joonas Donakoi, who also scored versus the Wild, are tied for second on the team with five goals each.

Nathan MacKinnon registered two assists for his fourth multi-point outing of the season. He ranks first in the NHL in assists (12) and third in points (14).

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