Gabriel Landeskog

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Avs’ Gabriel Landeskog suspended four games for cross-checking (Video)

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Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog will sit for four games after he was suspended for a cross-check to the head/neck area of Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk Saturday night.

Landeskog was given a minor on the play, but the situation and severity of the cross-check caused this to be looked at by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

As the video notes, Landeskog has a suspension history with the DoPS but was not considered a repeat offender because his last run-in was over 18 months ago.

When you look at where the puck is, when the final blow is delivered and, of course, where Landeskog gets Tkachuk, it’s clear cut that he was going to sit for a few games. After being suspended three games in March 2016 for a similar cross-check to Simon Despres of the Anaheim Ducks, he said there was, “no excuse for anything like that. …It was just a really, really, really dumb play on my part.” We’ll likely be hearing a similar quote from him in the coming days.

The four-game ban will cost Landeskog $119,815.68 in salary. He’s eligible to return to the Colorado lineup for their Dec. 7 game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Gabriel Landeskog lands player safety hearing after cross-check

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Gabriel Landeskog is in hot water with the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety (again) after cross-checking Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk in the head on Saturday.

The NHL announced Sunday that the Colorado Avalanche captain, who is no stranger to the league’s disciplinary committee, would have a hearing scheduled for Monday.

The incident, which can be seen below, shows Tkachuk fighting for a loose puck at the side of Colorado’s net in the first period of 3-2 Fames win on Saturday. Landeskog does well, initially, to get Tkachuk away from the puck, but then fires off two cross-checks, the second landing flush on the side of Tkachuk’s face.

Landeskog was issued a two-minute stint in the sin bin for cross-checking on the play. Tkachuk remained in the game and assisted on the ensuing power-play goal by Dougie Hamilton.

Landeskog has had issues with his stick getting horizontal and getting too high in the past.

In March of 2016, Landeskog was handed a three-game suspension for cross-checking then-Anaheim Ducks defenseman Simon Despres in the back of the head, which the 25-year-old said was, “really, really, really dumb play on my part.”

In November of 2015, Landeskog was given a two-game ban after a hit to the head of Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

Colorado Avalanche ’15-16 Outlook

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The Colorado Avalanche can be a tough nut to crack.

If you bounce around “Hockey Twitter” at all, the team very much stands as a guinea pig in the “stats vs. tradition” debate (or whatever you’d like to call it). That debate often gets a little weird and then overshadows the team itself.

When you look at the Avalanche, it’s an odd mix of old and new.

You have old ideas and old faces in management with Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic running the ship. They seemingly lean toward signing old veterans from Jarome Iginla to Francois Beauchemin.

The fresh faces make this squad awfully interesting, however. Gabriel Landeskog is still one of the NHL’s youngest captains at 22. With all the pressure on Nathan MacKinnon to make the next step, one might forget that he’s just 19. Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie remain in the meat of their primes at 24.

What if all four of those promising young players make significant strides that often come at such ages, particularly MacKinnon, who may just be scratching the surface of his skill set as people move onto to the next big thing in Connor McDavid? Could the Avalanche see earlier-than-expected results from still-blooming prospects like Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko?

Ryan O’Reilly is a tough player to let go – and he’s also just 24 – but when you look at that group, it’s quite a bit easier to stomach, isn’t it?

Yes, that defense looks pretty shaky beyond a handful of solid players such as Barrie and Erik Johnson, meaning the Avalanche will again lean heavily on Semyon Varlamov.

Still, with the abundance of talent at the forward position in particular, even the most ardent number-crunchers would shudder to dismiss the Avalanche outright.

Avalanche’s biggest question: How much will they miss Ryan O’Reilly?

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If the contract Ryan O’Reilly signed with the Buffalo Sabres is any indication, the Colorado Avalanche traded away a pretty good player this offseason.

O’Reilly’s stats are a pretty good indication, too. Still just 24 years old, he was the Avalanche’s third-leading scorer last season with 55 points in 82 games. On top of that, he killed penalties and won 53.4 percent of his faceoffs.

No wonder the Avs didn’t want to make this trade. They repeatedly stated their intention was to re-sign O’Reilly. Ultimately, however, his contract request included “numbers that we just didn’t go to,” according to GM Joe Sakic.

In return for O’Reilly, the Sabres sent the Avs defenseman Nikita Zadorov, forwards Mikhail Grigorenko and J.T. Compher, plus a draft pick. All three of those players are young, and it would be unreasonable to expect any of them to make a significant impact next season.

That’s why the Avs acquired Carl Soderberg from Boston and promptly signed him to a five-year pact worth almost $24 million. The plan is for the 29-year-old Soderberg to center Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, just like O’Reilly did.

But whether Soderberg can play to O’Reilly’s level remains to be seen. Last year with the B’s, he had 44 points in 82 games, skating mostly with Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly. With all due respect to those two veterans, MacKinnon and Landeskog represent an upgrade in linemates. Hence, Soderberg’s excitement at signing up for the opportunity.

It’s all the other stuff O’Reilly did, beyond putting up points, that Soderberg may not be able to replace.

Said Sabres GM Tim Murray upon giving O’Reilly that big contract extension: “It’s not easy to find a player who, at his age, is already established in the league as someone who plays a complete game and makes his teammates better. When we acquired him, we viewed him as someone who could immediately improve our roster, but was still young enough to make an impact for several years to come.”

Related: Mikhail Grigorenko is looking to make the leap

Under Pressure: Nathan MacKinnon

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It may seem a bit unfair to choose a 19-year-old for this category, but when you’re a former first overall pick that was awarded the Calder Trophy in your rookie season, and then you go through the dreaded sophomore slump? Well, it makes it a little more fair.

Nathan MacKinnon had just 38 points in 64 games last season. He had 63 points as a rookie in 2013-14.

“The whole team was kind of in a slump,” MacKinnon told the Chronicle Herald in May. “We weren’t playing well and we weren’t scoring. Things started going better for me but then I got hurt so it was kind of the perfect storm. But at the same time, I didn’t play well and do the things out there I think I can.

“It’s one season and sometimes it can be tough when it’s not going the way you want it to, but I try to stay as positive as I can. I’m pretty hard on myself so I’m already looking ahead to trying to prove to myself that I can be an impact player on our team.”

MacKinnon conceded that he was “maybe a little too confident” after his stellar rookie campaign, and that could probably go for his team as a whole. The Avs won the Central Division with 112 points in 2013-14. They regressed badly (some would say predictably), missing the playoffs with just 90 points in 2014-15.

As mentioned, MacKinnon is still just 19 years old. And experience can only be gained through, well, experience.

“Now I know what it’s like to be up and to be down in the NHL so I think that’s something that will be good for me,” he said.

On a final note, it will be interesting to see what position MacKinnon plays next season. Though he was drafted as a center, he’s mostly been a winger in the NHL, typically with Ryan O’Reilly as his center and Gabriel Landeskog as the other winger.

O’Reilly, of course, was traded to Buffalo, replaced in Colorado by Carl Soderberg.

Even if that’s the plan for now, we all know plans can change. MacKinnon has far more upside as a player than Soderberg, and a center can have more impact in all areas of the ice compared to a winger. The challenge for young players like MacKinnon is learning the position, since it comes with more defensive responsibilities.

Related: Soderberg didn’t hesitate in signing with Avs