Rookie Nathan MacKinnon is back at his natural position of center, but it's not the way he wanted to make his return.
MacKinnon will replace the injured Paul Stastny tonight against the Winnipeg Jets after Stastny hurt his back last game against the St. Louis Blues.
Stastny had been centering a line that had Gabriel Landeskog at left wing and MacKinnon at right wing before he left Saturday's game after the first shift and was unable to return. MacKinnon centered a line with Landeskog and winger Jamie McGinn for the remainder of the contest against the Blues, and the trio will be back together this evening against the Jets.
"It's going to be fun," MacKinnon said after today's morning skate. "I love playing center, but it's definitely not worth Pauly being out."
Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said Stastny is listed as day to day with the back injury and is optimistic that he will play Wednesday against Chicago. Roy said Stastny is going to see the doctor today and that he'll know more afterward.
Stastny has had a resurgence season and is in the top five on the team in scoring with 20 goals and 27 assists. He is three points away from being the fifth Avs player to hit 50 points this season, which would mark the first time that the team has had five players with at least 50 points since 2006-07.
In the meantime, Roy will go with a lineup that includes 11 forwards and seven defensemen, but he hasn't decided how he is going to use the 11-and-seven combination against the Jets.
"We'll see if we play a 'D' as a forward," Roy said. "I haven't made my decision on what we're going to do; if we are going to play a 'D' up or just rotate somebody on the fourth line."
Nick Holden will be back in the lineup this evening as the seventh defensemen after being a healthy scratch against the Blues. Ryan Wilson will be scratched tonight along with Stastny and backup goalie Reto Berra.
MacKinnon's return to center comes after he has had recent success at right wing. He has played on the wing for most of the season and leads all NHL rookies in points (51), goals (22), assists (29), power-play goals (8), game-winning goals (5-tied) and shots (184). MacKinnon was also playing wing during his 13-game point streak, which came to an end on Saturday against St. Louis. The streak was the longest by an 18-year-old in NHL history, breaking the record that was previously held by Wayne Gretzky in the 1979-80 season.
Despite having his name linked to the Great One, Roy said MacKinnon has stayed grounded and has kept his focus on helping the team win.
"I think he's been dealing well with everything," Roy said. "He is a very humble person. He approaches every game the same way, and he wants to perform. He should be a confident person right now by the way he has been playing."
AVALANCHE SPOTLIGHT ON: RYAN O'REILLY
While Nathan MacKinnon has taken most of the attention recently with his 13-game point streak, Ryan O'Reilly has put together a nice little streak of his own.
Center - COL
Goals: 24 | Assists: 27 | Pts: 57
Takeaways: 64 | PIM: 0
O'Reilly is on a six-game point streak and is one game short of his career best that he set Oct. 12-24, 2009. He is also on a six-game assist streak, which is a new career high.
"A couple games, getting some good bounces," O'Reilly said. "I think for me playing with Dutchy and PA [Parenteau], they give me tons of opportunities every game to put the puck in the net, or we have lots of opportunities as a line."
The O'Reilly-Duchene-Parenteau line scored Colorado's only goal in its 2-1 loss to St. Louis on Saturday and has been responsible for three of the last four tallies over the past two games. They have scored at least one goal in each of the last seven games.
O'Reilly leads the team with a career-high 24 goals, which is the most by an Avalanche player since Duchene and David Jones both scored 27 in 2010-11. He also leads the Avs in takeaways (64) and is tied for first in game-winning goals (5).
MORE MORNING NOTES
- Semyon Varlamov will get the start in net for the Avalanche. He is tied for second in the NHL with 31 victories, reaching 30 wins for the first time in his career.
- Matt Duchene extended his point streak to seven games (three goals, eight assists) on Saturday, a new career high. His previous best was a six-game scoring streak from March 12-24, 2011. Duchene also has a current six-game assist streak (eight assists), which is also a career long. His seven-game point streak is the longest active streak in the NHL.
- Duchene and O’Reilly are the first Avalanche players to record an assist in six consecutive games since John-Michael Liles (nine games) from Oct. 7-26, 2010.
- PA Parenteau has six points (four goals, two assists) in his last seven games.
- Tyson Barrie has seven points (two goals, five assists) in his last seven games. He leads all Colorado defensemen with nine goals, the most by an Avs blue liner since John-Michael Liles (12) in 2008-09.