CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Needing one win to clinch their Western Conference First Round series against the Minnesota Wild, the Colorado Avalanche could be getting regular-season leading scorer Matt Duchene back for Game 6 on Monday at the Xcel Energy Center (9 p.m. ET; CNBC, RDS, TSN, FS-N, ALT).
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said Sunday a decision will be made after the morning skate Monday.
Duchene, who had a career-high 70 points (23 goals, 47 assists) in 71 games, hasn't played since March 29 when he sustained an injury to the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in a collision with teammate Jamie McGinn against the San Jose Sharks.
Center - COL
Goals: - | Assists: - | Pts: -
Shots: - | +/-: -
The fact the Avalanche leads 3-2 in the best-of-7 series could factor into the decision.
Rookie Nathan MacKinnon scored at 3:27 of overtime to give the Avalanche a 4-3 win Saturday at Pepsi Center after PA Parenteau tied the game with 1:14 to play in regulation with goalie Semyon Varlamov on the bench for a sixth skater.
MacKinnon had the overtime goal and two assists Saturday and leads all Stanley Cup Playoff scorers with 10 points (two goals, eight assists in three home games).
"It's still exciting, it was a big goal for the team," said MacKinnon. "But we want to kind of forget about it and move on for [Monday] night. We definitely need that win. We left that game behind and we're in preparation mode now. It's not going to get any easier."
Adding Duchene would help.
"We need him," MacKinnon said. "Plain and simple, we can't replace a guy like that. He's one of our best players, our top scorer. It makes a difference every time he plays. If he doesn't, hopefully we can win for him and then he'll be ready to go in Round 2."
Roy said the Avalanche won't put Duchene in the lineup merely because there is a chance to advance.
"We said all along we’re going to be smart with him," he said. "He’s a talented player, he’s a great hockey player. He wants to play. If it’s up to him, he’d be in the lineup [Monday], but it’s not the way it works here."
Duchene skated for the seventh consecutive day Sunday and shot pucks with a handful of players at backup and third-string goalies Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Reto Berra, respectively. He took part in all the drills for the first time at the morning skate Saturday.
"The tough part right now is he hasn’t had a chance to have a full-[contact] practice with us," Roy said. "He had a morning skate [Saturday], today it’s more shooting, more for the goalies. [Monday] he’s going to have another morning skate and we’ll see. We’ll see how it goes.
"He seems to react well to the treatment. He looks good, but like I said before we’re going to be patient and [Monday] we’ll see how he feels after the morning skate and we’ll make a decision after that."
If Duchene does play, Roy said he would get his initial action as the fourth-line center and on power plays, where the Avalanche is 1-for-18 in the series.
"You can’t jump in and play the same way you were before you got hurt," Roy said. "Slowly start on the fourth line, power play, and then you’re going to see it, you’re going to smell it if he’s ready for more minutes."
Roy said trainers Matt Sokolowski and Scott Woodward, along with the medical staff, will be consulted before any decision is finalized.
"On this one, it’s not my decision and it’s not [Duchene's] decision," Roy said.
Duchene was anchoring a line with left wing Ryan O'Reilly and McGinn when he was injured. O'Reilly has moved back to his natural center position in Duchene's absence, skating with McGinn and Parenteau.
"We don't know for sure if he's going to be playing, but if he is back he's a huge addition," O'Reilly said. "He's been one of our best players all year. For me, he really helped to create offense when we've been playing together. He brings so much to the table that he makes it a lot more difficult for [opponents]."
With or without Duchene, the Avalanche know they will have their hands full against the Wild, who outshot them 78-34 and outscored them 3-1 at home in winning Games 3 and 4.
"I’m not going to guarantee any results, but we know how it’s going to be over there," Roy said. "We know how their fans are going to react; we know how they’re going to play. There’s not going to be any surprise. If they beat us, they beat us. We’ll be ready for that. We’re going to have to play exactly how we did [Saturday]."
The Avalanche outshot the Wild on Saturday for the first time in the series and scored four times on 35 shots against goalie Darcy Kuemper, who held them to one goal on 92 shots in parts of the three previous games.
"They played very well against us there," MacKinnon said. "We need to do a better job of generating offense. We've been a very good road team all year so I don't think we should be discouraged after a couple bad road games. It's going to be a tough task for us. They're going to come out hard and be very desperate. Their season's on the line. For us, we have to have the same mentality."