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One game into the season, the Avalanche is mixing up its top two lines after the second threesome finished a combined minus-9 in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on opening night.
Second-line center Nazem Kadri was on the ice for all four of the Blues’ even-strength goals. Left winger Gabe Landeskog and right winger Brandan Saad were both minus-3, and the line only combined for four of Colorado’s 27 shots. Kadri failed to produce a shot and Saad, the newcomer, had just one.
“They were directly responsible for a couple of the breakdowns that led to goals-against and then they also were on the ice and doing the right things for at least one other goal when we turned it over as a D-corps,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said of that line Thursday.
In Thursday’s practice, the Avs’ eighth of the season, Bednar moved Landeskog back to the top line with center Nathan MacKinnon and right wing Mikko Rantanen. The trio has been considered one of the NHL’s top lines over the last three seasons, but Bednar last season often used Andre Burakovsky as MacKinnon’s left winger to capitalize on the chemistry between Landeksog and Kadri.
Bednar now has Saad on his natural left wing and Burakovsky, who is also a lefty, on his preferred right side, with Kadri in the middle.
“I like the net presence that Landy brings to the MacKinnon line when they have possession in the offensive zone. He sets up shop in front of the net,” Bednar said. “Burakovsky, I like him in the right side, or I’m equally as happy with him on the right side and I want to move Saad over his left side, play on his forehand.”
Burakovsky scored Colorado’s goal Wednesday from the right circle — his best scoring area. He has a tremendous shot, and as a lefty he sees more net from the right side — the same reason the left-shooting Rantanen prefers the right side.
The new-look top lines will have a morning skate Friday ahead of the 7 p.m. rematch with the Blues as the teams conclude a two-game series in Denver.
Arena experience. The first game without fans at what was formerly called the Pepsi Center was an awkward experience. Artificial fan noise was used and it was extraordinary loud in the first period. It decreased as the game went on and it cut out altogether several times later in the game.
“I did notice how loud it was in the first. It felt like it was kind of like a playoff game, everyone on their feet yelling, but you didn’t have that atmosphere,” Avs winger Matt Calvert said. “One of the guys on the other team said that to me, he said they have to turn it down.”
Bottom line: Players didn’t feel any home-ice advantage. “The one advantage is sleeping in your own bed and not being in a hotel room,” Calvert said. “At the same time, you have to bring it. We miss our fans a lot and we obviously hope they come sooner rather than later.”
Footnotes. New Avs defenseman Devon Toews played on the top pairing with Cale Makar and logged 22:17 of ice time — despite going through concussion protocol in the first period after being elbowed to the head. “I’m fine. The league has their protocols and do their due diligence. I’m grateful that I’m fine,” said Toews, who did not produce a shot. “My lungs felt good, my legs good, and the structure and the detail is going to come for me, myself, and the team in general. We just got to be better. That’s what it comes down to. As a whole, we got to be better.” … MacKinnon had a club-record 14-game scoring streak in the playoffs last fall but has failed to produce a point in two consecutive games dating to last season. … Rantanen is again expected to don an “A” on his chest and replace defenseman Erik Johnson as alternate captain. Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 and won’t rejoin the team until Saturday at the earliest.