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Training camp preview: Injured players returning in Western Conference

Rantanen, Pacioretty, Tarasenko look to make impact in Cup Qualifiers

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / Staff Writer

With training camps set to begin July 13 as part of Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan, is taking a closer look at key storylines for each of the 24 teams in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. 

The Qualifiers will start Aug. 1 with the top four teams in each conference, based on points percentage, playing a three-game round-robin, and the No. 5-12 seeds playing in eight best-of-5 series. The winners of those series will advance to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the four teams from the round-robin.

Today, we look at the top players (listed alphabetically) from the Western Conference who were injured before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and could return to make an impact in the Qualifiers.


[RELATED: Training camp preview: Injured players returning in Eastern Conference]


Andre Burakovsky, F, Colorado Avalanche -- The Avalanche have a few on this list beginning with Burakovsky, who missed the final seven games before the pause with a lower-body injury. Traded to the Avalanche by the Washington Capitals on June 28, 2019, Burakovsky scored 45 points (20 goals, 25 assists) in 58 games including a team-high six game-winning goals.

Calvin de Haan, D, Chicago Blackhawks -- He skated with the Blackhawks for the first time in Phase 2 on July 2 and is expected to be ready for camp after having surgery on his right shoulder Dec. 27. De Haan gives Chicago needed defenseman depth and will help the penalty kill, which was tied for eighth with the Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins (82.1 percent) this season.

Noah Hanifin, D, Calgary Flames -- Two bits of good news here. Hanifin, who sustained an upper-body injury against the Golden Knights on March 8, is back, but his partner on the second pair, Travis Hamonic, is not after opting out due to family health concerns. Hanifin scored 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 70 games.

Nathan MacKinnon, F, Colorado Avalanche -- What does a healthy MacKinnon bring? Everything from offense to speed to power. He led the Avalanche with 93 points (35 goals, 58 assists) in 69 games, 33 more than their second-leading scorer, defenseman Cale Makar (50). MacKinnon missed Colorado's final game before the pause with a lower-body injury. Considering he plays 21:13 per game, second on the Avalanche to defenseman Samuel Girard (21:19), the extended rest was likely beneficial.

Video: COL@CBJ: MacKinnon blasts one-timer past Merzlikins

Max Pacioretty, F, Vegas Golden Knights -- It will help the Golden Knights to get their leading scorer back. Pacioretty sustained a lower-body injury against the Oilers on March 9 but said in April that he'd be ready for camp. He scored 66 points (32 goals, 34 assists) and 19 power-play points in 71 games.

Mikko Rantanen, F, Colorado Avalanche -- Expected to miss weeks after an upper-body injury sustained against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 17, Rantanen skated with Avalanche for the first time in Phase 2 on June 29. He brings a dynamic game and production with 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) in 42 games despite missing 16 with an ankle injury from Oct. 25-Nov. 29. He scored five game-winning goals, second on the Avalanche behind Burakovsky (six).

David Rittich, G, Calgary Flames -- The Flames must choose between Cam Talbot and Rittich, who received a plasma injection to treat a bruised elbow a few days before the season was paused. Rittich, in his final start before the pause, allowed four goals on 31 shots in a 5-3 loss to the Golden Knights on March 8. He was 24-17-6 with a 2.97 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in 48 games.

Mark Stone, F, Vegas Golden Knights -- Healthy after missing the final six games before the pause with a lower-body injury. Stone scored 63 points (21 goals, 42 assists), second on the Golden Knights behind Pacioretty. His return will help Vegas on special teams. Stone scored 17 power-play points and averages 1:56 per game on the penalty kill.

Video: TBL@VGK: Stone backhands puck by Vasilevskiy for lead

Vladimir Tarasenko, F, St. Louis Blues -- The Blues were the top team in the West (42-19-10, .662 points percentage) despite missing Tarasenko, who had surgery on his dislocated left shoulder Oct. 29. Tarasenko, who scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 10 games, was close to returning when the season was paused. He said June 22 that the extra time allowed him to practice and get stronger.

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