Avs get first taste of life without Rantanen against Golden Knights

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Learning that Mikko Rantanen is most likely week-to-week, rather than month-to-month, after a scary-looking injury was mostly cause for a sigh of relief from the Colorado Avalanche.

Still, being without a star player for several games is far from ideal, and the Avs aren’t exactly getting eased into that grind, as they face a tough opponent in the Golden Knights in Vegas on Friday.

Early on, it appears as though J.T. Compher is the winner of the replacing Rantanen sweepstakes, as he’ll slide into a first-line role with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. While line juggling is common in the modern NHL, the Avs’ top line has been practically glued together, particularly the duo of MacKinnon and Rantanen. Via Natural Stat Trick, MacKinnon’s played 2,700 minutes with Rantanen and a bit less than 523 minutes without him since 2017-18.

While the Avs’ top line has been synchronized with each other, Compher noted to the Avs website that he’s been used to moving around the lineup.

“Over the last few years I have played with a lot of different guys in a lot of different spots,” Compher said. “For me when I get put in a new spot, it is not too different. Just trying to play my game, play with speed, hard on pucks, creating turnovers and the more I can get it in Landy and MacK’s hands, the better we are going to be.”

In particular, Compher’s shot might help him produce with those top players:

Speaking of different guys in different spots, this will also serve as an opportunity for the continued growth of the Avs’ supporting cast.

As great as Rantanen and MacKinnon have been in helping Colorado to a 7-1-1 start with 12 points apiece, the Avs are less one-dimensional than they’ve been in the past thanks to a hot start from the likes of Andre Burakovsky, who ties rising star defenseman Cale Makar for third place in team scoring with eight points.

The Avalanche’s top power play unit still seems pretty stout on paper, via Left Wing Lock: MacKinnon, Landeskog, Burakovsky, Nazem Kadri, and Samuel Girard.

The Avs are getting dragged into this, but nonetheless, Rantanen’s injury serves as an impetus to experiment with different combinations. It will still likely hurt in the short term, yet finding different groups and styles that work might come in handy if Colorado makes it a third straight year of playoff berths.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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