J.T. Compher

WATCH LIVE: Avalanche host Wild on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Friday’s matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The League returns from the Christmas break with 11 games on the schedule, including this Central Division matchup – the third of five regular-season meetings between the Wild and Avalanche. Each team has won at home against the other with the Avs winning, 4-2, on Oct. 5 (second game of the season for both clubs) and the Wild pulling out a 3-2 victory on Nov. 21.

Colorado, looking to return to the postseason for the third straight year, sit second in the Central, while Minnesota is in the thick of the Wild Card hunt – two points back of Calgary for the second position – and certainly not out of the race for a division spot, just three points behind Winnipeg. The Wild missed the playoffs a season ago after making six consecutive appearances from 2012-13 to 2017-18.

Nathan MacKinnon was voted an All-Star captain for the second straight season. Having another MVP caliber season (was the Hart Trophy runner-up two seasons ago), the No. 1 pick in 2013 has played in all 37 games this season and leads the Avs in most major statistical categories – goals (21), assists (34), points (55), shots (168), power-play goals (7), power-play points (20).

Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk missed over a month with a family issue, playing on Nov. 16 and then coming back on Dec. 19. He’s played in three games since his return (two starts). He allowed five goals at Arizona in a win in his first game back and then had the shutout against Calgary on Monday.

The consistent line of Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen is now fully healthy and the second line of Andre BurakovskyNazem KadriJoonas Donskoi, which is entirely new this season, has been just as productive a trio. After MacKinnon (21), it’s Burakovsky and Donskoi (13 each) and Kadri (12), who are tops on the team in goals this season.

[COVERAGE OF BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

WHAT: Minnesota Wild at Colorado Avalanche
WHERE: Pepsi Center
WHEN: Friday, Dec. 27, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Wild-Avs stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

WILD
Zach PariseEric StaalMats Zuccarello
Ryan DonatoJoel Eriksson EkKevin Fiala
Jordan GreenwayNico SturmLuke Kunin
Marcus FolignoVictor RaskRyan Hartman

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon
Jonas BrodinCarson Soucy
Brad HuntMathew Dumba

Starting goalie: Devan Dubnyk

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Andre Burakovsky – Nazem Kadri – Joonas Donskoi
Matt NietoPierre-Edouard BellemareMatt Calvert
Tyson JostJ.T. CompherValeri Nichushkin

Cale MakarSam Girard
Nikita ZadorovRyan Graves
Ian ColeErik Johnson

Starting goalie: Pavel Francouz

Kathryn Tappen will host Friday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. Chris Cuthbert will handle play-by-play duties alongside Pierre McGuire at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo.

Episode 2 of the three-part docuseries “Road To The NHL Winter Classic” will air on Friday, Dec. 27, at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The season finale will be presented on Monday, Jan. 6, at 10:30 p.m. ET immediately following Oilers-Maple Leafs on NBCSN. 

The series will chronicle the Stars and Predators as they prepare to meet outdoors in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on January 1 at Cotton Bowl Stadium at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Avs getting plenty of depth scoring this season

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Avalanche. Coverage begins at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

When you think of the Colorado Avalanche, the first names that come to mind are probably Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, or Gabriel Landeskog. The trio produces an incredible amount of offense and they’re arguably the best line in the entire NHL.

Last season, MacKinnon (99 points), Rantanen (87 points) and Landeskog (75 points) were first, second and third in team scoring. Former Avs defender Tyson Barrie was fourth with 59 points, but no other forward on the team had collected more than 49 points (Carl Soderberg).

So yes, most teams would kill to have a top line like Colorado’s, but there’s no doubt that they also needed to add some depth scoring during summer. On top of that need, they also lost Rantanen and Landeskog for an extended period of time already this season.

What did general manager Joe Sakic do? He traded Tyson Barrie away, but Cale Makar has replaced his production in a big way by scoring 28 points in his first 29 games. That’s a step up offensively right there. In exchange for Barrie, the Avs were able to land Nazem Kadri, who is an important forward on this team at both ends of the ice. He also signed Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky to free-agent contracts.

How has that worked out so far?

Pretty well.

Kadri has 10 goals and 10 assists through 27 games, but again, he’s so valuable at both ends of the ice that he instantly makes the Avs a better team. He’s tough to play against and he’s capable of playing in both offensive and defensive situations. He’s sidelined with a lower-body injury now, but he should be back soon enough. It’s not surprising to see him do well with his new team.

On the flip side, Donskoi and Burakovsky’s offensive output this year has been downright shocking. Donskoi trails only MacKinnon and Makar for the team lead in scoring, as he has 13 goals and 27 points in only 30 games. He’s just 10 points away from matching his career high, which he set with San Jose last season. Whether or not he can stay on this pace remains to be seen, but the Avs will be a tough out if they keep getting that kind of production from him.

As for Burakovsky, he became available because the Washington Capitals were in a bit of a cap crunch during the summer. The 24-year-old posted a career-high 38 points back in 2015-16, but he failed to build on that season over the last three years with the Capitals.

Colorado paid a second-round pick, a third-round pick and Scott Kosmachuk (he’s moved on to the German League this year) for the former first-rounder, so they gave up quite a bit of draft compensation to roll the dice on this player. That trade has panned out pretty well so far though.

Burakovsky is up to 12 goals and 23 points in 27 games, which puts him fourth on the team in scoring as of right now.

Let’s also give honorable mentions to Matt Calvert, J.T. Compher and Matt Nieto, who have also helped on the offensive side of things this year.

Of course, the Avs are going to go as far as MacKinnon and the rest of their stars take them, but getting help is always an added bonus. Also, only the Columbus Blue Jackets have more cap space than the Avs right now, so there’s a chance they could improve their roster with a deal before the trade deadline.

Colorado upset Calgary in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year before being bounced by the San Jose Sharks in the second. Expectations will be much higher this time around.

Kathryn Tappen will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Patrick Sharp and Keith Jones and NHL insider Darren Dreger. Chris Cuthbert will handle play-by-play duties alongside Pierre McGuire at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Avs keep winning thanks to MacKinnon

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Three Stars

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

It’s hard to imagine there being all that many hot takes sizzling out there about MacKinnon not being able to dominate on his own, but if they existed, they’ve gone ice cold as the speedster continues to score with Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog on the shelf. (Among others.)

The Blackhawks had little hope of slow MacKinnon down – literally and figuratively – as he scored one goal and three assists, with two of those helpers being of the primary variety.

J.T. Compher had a strong game as well with a goal and two assists, while Pavel Francouz made 34 out of 36 saves.

2. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

The Predators have an elite defense, but at times, that label is more about how much they can drive offense (and serve as a net-positive) more than it is about always locking teams down, at least now that we’re firmly in the Peter Laviolette era.

With that in mind, Rinne, in particular, has been crucial to Nashville’s success. So, when he struggles (18 goals allowed in his last four games heading into Friday, with only one full game during that time), it’s a Rinne-sized worry.

Maybe Friday can serve as a confidence-booster? He made 31 saves to shut out a tough Hurricanes team, hitting some significant milestones in the process. Consider these some early factoids: Rinne became the 22nd goalie to reach 350 career wins, and this marked his 58th shutout, tying him for 19th in NHL history.

3. Gustav Nyquist, Columbus Blue Jackets

For all the CBJ lost during the offseason, they made a reasonable pickup by adding Nyquist’s skill and smarts to their mix.

After a respectable-but-unspectacular October, Nyquist scored 12 of his 18 points during 13 November games. Friday was the highlight, as Nyquist generated a hat trick as the Blue Jackets beat the Penguins. Considering how much John Tortorella seems to dislike the Pens, that’s a triply delicious accomplishment.

The only thing that keeps Nyquist from advancing up this list is that one of his three goals was an empty-netter.

Highlights of the Night

David Pastrnak‘s fantastic overtime setup can be seen in the overall highlights of the Bruins’ OT win against the Rangers:

To spread the wealth a little bit, enjoy Brenden Dillon setting up Noah Gregor for one heck of a first NHL goal. This is like a … well, luckier version of Erik Karlsson‘s memorable setup for Mike Hoffman from a few years back.

Factoids

  • NHL PR notes that Henrik Lundqvist is the only goalie with more shutouts (63) than Pekka Rinne (58) since Rinne came into the league in 2005-06.
  • David Pastrnak scored 12+ goals for the second consecutive month. Via NHL PR: only three other players have managed that during the first two months of a season: Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Mike Bossy.
  • Maybe don’t sit on a lead against the Capitals? Washington already has five wins in games where they trailed by multiple goals in 2019-20, the most of any team, according to NHL PR. Alex Ovechkin scored his 255th career power-play goal, tying Teemu Selanne for third-most in NHL history. Brett Hull is second all-time with 265 PPG, while Dave Andreychuk has the record with 274. Feels like a healthy Ovechkin could blow those totals out of the water, right?
  • Sportsnet stats with another interesting Ovechkin nugget:

Scores

BOS 3 – NYR 2 (OT)
BUF 6 – TOR 4
PHI 6 – DET 1
COL 5 – CHI 2
MIN 7 – OTT 2
WPG 3 – ANA 0
SJS 4 – LAK 1
WSH 4 – TBL 3 (OT)
VGK 2 – ARI 1 (SO)
CBJ 5 – PIT 2
NSH 3 – CAR 0
STL 3 – DAL 1

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.

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.

Avalanche vs. Penguins livestream: How to watch Wednesday Night Hockey

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Colorado is the only perfect team remaining in the NHL. This marks the fourth time in franchise history that the Nordiques/Avs have opened a season at least 5-0-0.

The stars of these two teams, Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon, both hail from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. They both attended Shattuck St. Mary’s boarding school in Faribault, Minn. and both played junior in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before each being selected No. 1 overall. They maintain a great relationship off the ice, including training together in the offseason.

Beyond their explosive top line, Colorado also has benefitted from the development and emergence of young defensemen Cale Makar and Sam Girard. Makar turns 21 on Oct. 30th, and Girard doesn’t turn 22 until May. After showing a glimpse of their talent last postseason, they are off to strong starts in 2019-20.

Makar has at least one point in all five games so far (six pts. total). He’s the fifth defenseman in NHL history to start his regular season career with a five-game point streak. Marek Zidlicky (2003-04, Predators) is the only player from that group who has ever extended that streak six games.

Pittsburgh has won three straight games, and is coming off back-to-back seven-goal performances over the weekend. The Pens beat the Wild 7-4 on Saturday before beating the Jets 7-2 on Sunday. Sidney Crosby has scored at least one point in every game this season, including multi-point efforts in each of the past three contests. His 10 points leads the Pens. This is Crosby’s 950th game, and he is one goal away from 450 for his career.

[COVERAGE OF AVS-PENGUINS BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

WHAT: Colorado Avalanche at Pittsburgh Penguins
WHERE: PPG Paints Arena
WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 16, 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Avalanche-Penguins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Joonas DonskoiNazem KadriAndre Burakovsky
J.T. CompherTyson JostColin Wilson
Matt CalvertPierre-Edouard BellemareMatt Nieto

Cale Makar – Sam Girard
Erik JohnsonMark Barberio
Ryan GravesIan Cole

Starting goalie: Philipp Grubauer

PENGUINS
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Brandon Tanev
Dominik KahunJared McCannPatric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-ReeseTeddy BluegerDominik Simon
Adam Johnson – Joseph Blandisi – Sam Lafferty
(Jared McCann is a game-time decision.)

Brian DumoulinKris Letang
Marcus PetterssonJustin Schultz
Jack Johnson -John Marino

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

MORE: Patience, preparation part of Makar’s NHL path

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will call Avs-Pens from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa. Kathryn Tappen will host NHL Live with analysts Patrick Sharp, Jeremy Roenick and NHL insider Bob McKenzie.