You’re a playoff-bound team that just lost your leading scorer (and No. 1 center) for the remainder of the regular season. What do you do?
Promote the 18-year-old. Obviously.
That’s what the Colorado Avalanche are doing tonight in Columbus — rookie Nathan MacKinnon will man the middle of the club’s top line between Jamie McGinn and Ryan O’Reilly, replacing the injured Matt Duchene.
“I’m comfortable at center,” MacKinnon said, per NHL.com. “I’m comfortable at wing as well. Down the road I might end up back at wing. We’ll see how it goes [Tuesday]. Hopefully we can create some early chemistry and play pretty well.”
MacKinnon played center in junior, but has spent the majority of this season at right wing and acquitted himself well, leading all first-year players in goals (23), assists (33) and points (51).
It’ll be interesting to see how MacKinnon, the first overall pick at the ’13 NHL Entry Draft, fares in the faceoff circle. Colorado isn’t a great faceoff team to begin with (49.4 percent, 18th in the league) and Duchene was one of the club’s most active guys on the draw, taking 1058 this year (winning 50.3 percent).
MacKinnon has been somewhat active — he’s fifth on the team, with 393 faceoffs taken — but is operating at just a 43.5 percent clip.
As for the rest of Colorado’s line juggling, Paul Stastny will center Gabriel Landeskog and John Mitchell, who jumps up from the third to second line. That’ll give the Avs a look of MacKinnon-Stastny-Marc-Andre Cliche-Brad Malone down the middle, though O’Reilly has played center extensively in the past and could move there without much issue.
Saturday’s been unkind to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and not just on the scoreboard (where it’s 3-0 early on against the Ottawa Senators).
The Maple Leafs lost Tyler Bozak to an apparent upper-body injury thanks to a questionable hit by Sens forward Mika Zibanejad.
You can judge that check (which drew a minor penalty for illegal check to the head) in the video above. Again, Bozak will not return to tonight’s game.
It’s unclear if Bozak will miss time beyond this contest.
Scary stuff on Saturday: multiple reporters (including the Maine Hockey Journal’s Chris Roy) note that Malcolm Subban was taken to a hospital after a puck struck his throat during warm-ups.
There’s no word yet on Subban’s condition beyond that he was taken away in an ambulance.
The AHL’s Providence Bruins seem like they’ve been left scrambling for a backup goalie in Subban’s absence.
Subban stated days ago that he’s taken some significant steps forward during the 2015-16 season.
The Ottawa Senators cannot pin all of their troubles on missing their No. 1 center, yet it probably feels like a huge relief to get him back.
After missing six games with his latest injury, Kyle Turris is in the lineup as the Senators take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Again, it’s not all a matter of missing Turris, but the Senators went 1-5-0 during his six-game absence. They’ve really been falling since late December, to be honest.
Will Turris be enough to stop the bleeding? Perhaps to an extent, but the Senators are in for a serious battle if they hope to fight through the East bubble.
Times have been tough for Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers fans lately, even if they’ve been frustrating in different ways.
Saturday’s 5-1 Habs win highlights a few things, but the most tantalizing thought for those fans is that it’s likely that we’ll see more great things from P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid … sometimes against each other.
Perhaps this will be a confidence booster for Montreal. More than anything else, it directed attention to Subban, who’s quietly been absolutely fantastic for the floundering Canadiens.
Consider how much of an offensive burden he’s currently carrying:
From one current All-Star to someone who could be a perennial one: McDavid certainly seemed to grab Subban’s attention.
Then again, when you make moves like these, who won’t notice?
The Oilers did lose, mind you, so it’s not surprising that Todd McLellan mentioned that the team can’t depend upon McDavid for everything.
That said, the funny thing about that quote is that McDavid might just carry the Oilers for two decades, at least if health and other factors go the right way.
If that’s true, Subban vs. McDavid could be a fun matchup to watch a few times per season for a long, long time.