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.
Former NHL defenseman Mike Commodore may have been coached by Mike Babcock, but that doesn’t mean he’s a fan of Mike Babcock.
Commodore played in just 17 games for the Detroit Red Wings during the 2011-12 season and that was enough for him to muster up some pretty harsh feelings toward his old coach.
As Babcock’s new team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, were being spanked in Detroit on Friday, Commodore took to Twitter to show fans just how much he was enjoying his former coach’s struggles.
Things got especially interesting after Red Wings rookie Dylan Larkin scored just 20 seconds into the second period to give Detroit a 3-0 lead.
“3-0 nothin Babs you posing arrogant piece of (bleep),” said Commodore via his Twitter page. “Welcome back to the rink where everyone that met you hates you.”
Commodore wasn’t done there:
And there was much, much more.
To get a look at all of Commodore’s Babcock-bashing tweets, click here.
Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.
Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.
Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.
The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.
“When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.
Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.
The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.
“It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”