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MacKinnon makes quick impression with Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski /

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- It apparently takes quite a bit to impress Nathan MacKinnon, at least when discussing his own game.

The 18-year-old Colorado Avalanche rookie had two assists and centered a line that was dangerous throughout his team's 6-1 opening-night win Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks, yet he stayed on the ice to work on his game for about 40 minutes after practice ended Thursday.

"There's some things I have to do better," said MacKinnon, the first player selected in the 2013 NHL Draft.

MacKinnon set up Jamie McGinn for two goals, had one shot on goal and was plus-1 in 15:31 of ice time in his NHL debut. He showed plenty of speed and playmaking ability, and he held his own in a physical battle with Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy.

The two got into a shoving match in the second period that resulted in coincidental roughing minors. Lovejoy sent MacKinnon sprawling to the ice in the final minute of regulation with an unpenalized hit that angered Avalanche coach Patrick Roy.

"It happens," MacKinnon said. "I don't really have an opinion on it. I don't really want to say my opinion or anything like that. It's part of the game and I have to be ready for it. I'm fine."

The McGinn-MacKinnon-PA Parenteau line combined for two goals, three assists and four shots on goal.

"We got better each preseason game," McGinn said. "We're there for each other and there's a lot of communication. We talk on and off the ice. It was good to get out there in the first game and make something happen. You could see the jitters in Nate in the beginning, and he just got better as the game went on."

MacKinnon earned his first NHL point at 17:20 of the second period when he gained possession of the puck along the end boards and slipped a no-look pass to McGinn on the right side for a shot past Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth and a 4-0 Avalanche lead.

MacKinnon's second assist might have been even sweeter. He was skating near the right post when he accepted a feed from Parenteau and immediately found McGinn driving to the net at 13:42 of the third period to make it 5-0.

"On the first one, knowing a guy with Nate's skill, just get to the net and get open," McGinn said. "He found me and I have to reward him by putting it in the back of the net."

McGinn said he yelled for the puck before scoring the second goal.

"I saw PA with the puck and he gave it to Nate," McGinn said, "and when Nate got it, he was pretty low and he wasn't able to shoot. So I knew I just had to beat my man to the net and just call for it. I think I yelled loud enough and Nate put it right on my stick. Again, I have to reward him by scoring. If I don't, that's a wasted opportunity."

MacKinnon had his own take on the scoring plays.

Nathan MacKinnon
Center - COL
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 2
SOG: 1 | +/-: 1
"A couple passes. But I mean, there's a lot of things I can work on as well," he said. "[McGinn] got into the open spaces and PA made a good play. Those plays are not just from the way they finish. Those guys did a good job."

Center Matt Duchene, who was 18 when he made his Avalanche debut in 2009-10, said MacKinnon will get even better as he adjusts to the NHL level and improves his all-around game.

"He's talented, that's why he's here," Duchene said. "Now it's going to be the same process I went through. It's learning how to play 200 feet and continually improving that. He's going to learn. There's mistakes in everyone's game and we're all getting better. For him, it's up to the older guys to help him as much as possible. But a great start for him; it was a great game."

MacKinnon only received one second of power-play time, but Roy suggested it's just a matter of time before that changes.

"It's a great situation for him," Roy said of MacKinnon's third-line role. "Enjoy the ride, enjoy the moment. Of course with time he'll play a larger role on our team. But this is the perfect fit right now. Sometimes when things are not going well, it takes pressure off. Now he wants more but, unfortunately, he just needs to be patient and to keep playing hard. He was outstanding, no doubt about it."

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog sustained a leg injury in Wednesday night's game. He didn't practice Thursday and was being examined by team physician Andrew Parker. "We'll re-evaluate the situation for [Friday] night," Roy said. The Avalanche closes out a two-game homestand Friday against the Nashville Predators.

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