Sat, 22 Jan 2022

Avs welcome back Nathan MacKinnon vs. surging Maple Leafs

Field Level Media
01 Dec 2021, 07:40 GMT+10

The Colorado Avalanche expect to have center Nathan MacKinnon back in the lineup Wednesday night when they open a five-game trip against the surging Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Avalanche were 7-1-0 -- averaging 5.4 goals per game -- while MacKinnon was out with a lower-body injury. He has one goal and nine assists in eight games this season.

"He's one of the best players in the world," said right winger Mikko Rantanen, who had three goals and an assist in a 6-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday. "Getting one of the best players back to the team is only going to help us."

The Avalanche are getting healthy. Rookie defenseman Bowen Byram returned Saturday after missing six games with a concussion and scored what proved to be the winning goal.

The Maple Leafs defeated the Anaheim Ducks 5-1 on Sunday to complete a sweep of a four-game trip and finish November with a 12-2-0 record.

Toronto set a club record for wins in a calendar month and matched the team record of seven straight road victories.

"We had good stretches last season ... that's why it's important to just focus on one day at a time and find consistency," Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said before the team left Anaheim. "That's what we've talked about since Day 1. It has been a great November, (but) the calendar is going to turn here. We'll get back home after a long trip and have a really good team waiting for us."

The Avalanche also had a good November, going 7-2-1.

Byram has four goals and five assists in 12 games, and his return from a concussion was impressive.

"You see a lot of guys come back from that type of injury and sort of tip-toe around the ice and not be as assertive, and I thought he was the exact opposite (Saturday)," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. "That's as good of a game as I've seen him play, and that's after missing six games. He was physical and he was engaged. He was just engaged from start to finish."

Colorado will face a hot goaltender in Toronto's Jack Campbell, who improved his record to 12-4-1 when he stopped 39 shots, 19 in the third period, against Anaheim. Toronto also had 10 blocked shots.

"They're just going above and beyond," Campbell said. "Everyone is doing what the game plan is and sacrificing their bodies and just committing to their roles and playing super hard for 60-plus minutes. If it takes more, they keep it going."

"Jack Campbell was great all the way throughout," Keefe said. "We gave up certainly a lot more volume than we would have liked, but I thought we defended pretty well and kept things to the perimeter and limited rebound opportunities and such."

"It's fun ... when you're winning hockey games," said left winger Michael Bunting, who had a goal and an assist on Sunday. "The mood in the room is upbeat, everyone is happy, so it's really fun to be a part of. It was a great road trip for us, and we have to head home and face a good team in Colorado."

Toronto right winger Ondrej Kase (upper-body injury) will miss his third straight game Wednesday. Joey Anderson will take his place.

--Field Level Media

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