NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
It became clear last season that Andre Burakovsky did not have a future in Washington. The winger was in the final year of his contract, but the team owned his rights as a restricted free agent. But inconsistent production and the Capitals’ need for salary cap space fueled a trade to the Avalanche.
After five seasons of inconsistencies, Burakovsky’s trade to Colorado and his one-year deal was a classic change of scenery move. The Capitals had other priorities heading into the 2019 off-season and it was clear it was time to move on.
In Colorado Burakovsky is taking advantage of the chance that he couldn’t keep hold of in Washington. Through 51 games he’s recorded a career high 40 points. His 17 goals is tied for the highest total in his six-season NHL career.
“I think I have been fitting in pretty good with this team. I like everyone and everyone is good to me, so that helps,” said Burakovsky this week via the Avalanche website. “Feeling comfortable here, coming to the rink every day, you are looking forward to it and that wasn’t something I had in the past. It was not always the best time to go to the rink, but like this year I just want to go see the boys all the time.”
[COVERAGE OF AVS-WILD BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]
It’s not just Burakovsky, who has 12 points in his last seven games, having a resurgent year on that second line. Valeri Nichushkin has bounced back from zero goals in 57 games last season in Dallas to 10 in 47 games in Colorado. Factor in veteran Nazem Kadri’s presence and 19 goals, and you have a line that’s been together for a month adding to the team’s depth up front. Also of note: none of those three players were with the team a season ago.
“I think we have the keys that we need to have a successful line,” said Burakovsky. “We got Val, he is like a horse out there. It is tough to get the puck from him, he is working really hard and making plays and he is having a really good year too. Obviously Naz, making all the plays and is so, so good with the puck and finding open lanes and just give it to us.”
As the Avalanche enter Sunday’s meeting with the Wild (6:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN) they sit only a few points behind the Blues for the Central Division lead with games in-hand. The division race will be something to watch down the stretch, especially in a year where many are expecting Colorado to take another big step forward.
With much of the focus on the top dogs in Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, the Avalanche will need Burakovsky to continue delivering scoring depth. It will not only pay off for the team, but also for the soon-to-be restricted free agent.
Chris Cuthbert and Pierre McGuire will have the call from Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul., Minn. Liam McHugh hosts studio coverage with Mike Milbury and Keith Jones.
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.