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MacKinnon encouraged by healthy Avalanche, likes chances to win Cup

Believes for first time in his seven NHL seasons championship is within reach

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

Nathan MacKinnon's belief in the Colorado Avalanche's chances to win the Stanley Cup this season has been bolstered two days into training camp.

All the Colorado center had to do was look around on the ice in practice and see who was there with him, everyone going full speed, all looking fit and strong, to realize the opportunity the Avalanche will have in front of them starting next month.

"We were kind of hurt all season, which was unfortunate," said MacKinnon, who on Tuesday was named one of three finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award, which goes to the most outstanding player in the NHL as voted on by members of the NHL Players' Association. "We only had our full team together for I think 10 games. But everyone is healthy now, everyone looks great." 

Colorado (42-20-8, .657 points percentage) will play in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in the Western Conference against the St. Louis Blues (42-19-10, .662), Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8, .606) and Dallas Stars (37-24-8, .594) to determine seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Those games will be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the hub city for the 12 participating Western teams, where there will also be four best-of-5 series, with the winners advancing to the playoffs. The Qualifiers begin Aug. 1.

"It's my seventh year [in the NHL] and this is the first one I really feel like we have a chance to win [the Stanley Cup]," MacKinnon said. "It doesn't come around very often, definitely don't want to take this for granted. … We're confident that we can get it done."

They have reason to be, especially considering the restart after the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus gives the Avalanche a chance to have a near full lineup, something that happened so rarely this season.

Colorado, which began the season 8-1-1, started dealing with injuries in late October, when MacKinnon's regular linemates -- Mikko Rantanen (Oct. 21) and Gabriel Landeskog (Oct. 26) -- were injured. Each missed 16 games.

Defenseman Erik Johnson was out for 11 games from Nov. 27-Dec. 18. Rookie defenseman Cale Makar missed eight games from Dec. 9-23 and then another five from March 2-9, returning to play one game before the pause. Goalie Philipp Grubauer missed five games from Nov. 7-16.

But it was especially bad for the Avalanche when the season was paused. They were missing MacKinnon (lower body) and Rantanen (upper body), along with forwards Andre Burakovsky (upper body), Matt Calvert (lower body), Nazem Kadri (lower body) and Colin Wilson (lower body).

Grubauer (lower body) was also out of the lineup.

"We had a great start to the season and then we just couldn't catch a break," MacKinnon said.

All but Wilson are healthy and practiced each of the first two days of camp. Wilson is unfit to play, Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Monday.

The rest are ready to go, healthy and hungry.

"We're very deep and we're going to need everyone to maintain their health, obviously," MacKinnon said, "but we're feeling pretty good."

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