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While Colorado’s top line had a rare off night at home Wednesday, the expectation is the big dogs will have plenty of bite tonight in Winnipeg.
Nathan MacKinnon set up Matt Calvert’s power-play tally, the lone goal for the Avalanche (7-5-3) in a 4-1 defeat to the Nashville Predators at Denver’s Pepsi Center.
But the star centre and his linemates, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, didn’t generate much buzz in the offensive zone and struggled defensively, each finishing minus-two.
It was the kind of performance by the NHL’s most dominant trio likely not to be repeated, especially in a huge divisional matchup against the Jets (8-5-1).
Winnipeg centre Mark Scheifele said the unit is a threat each time it springs onto the ice.
“They just kind of do it all. They’re a fun line to watch. They’ve got a lot of skill, make a lot of plays, but at the same time, they go to all of the dirty areas. It’s not just a rush line. They get possessions and they’re in the (offensive) zone for a good amount of time,” Scheifele said.
He and wingers Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers will spend much of tonight matched up against the MacKinnon line.
“They’ve got a big guy in Landeskog that likes to go to the net and has some good finish. With Rantanen, he kind of does it all. He makes a lot of simple plays that a lot of people don’t see and, obviously, MacKinnon is a high-end talent with a lot of speed. They play a full 200-foot game and they’re going to make you pay if you take a shift off against them,” Scheifele said.
Rantanen, in his third NHL campaign, leads the league in scoring (5G, 19A), while MacKinnon, a Hart Trophy finalist last season for the league’s most valuable player, is tied for second in point production (11G, 11A) with Edmonton Oilers centre Connor McDavid (10G, 12A). Landeskog has fired 11 goals as well.
Winnipeg centre Adam Lowry said he caught some of the Avs-Preds tilt on the tube, a stark reminder of just how dangerous Colorado’s elite forwards can be without notice.
“If you get caught puck-watching against guys like that, bad things are going to happen,” Lowry said.
“You saw one play from MacKinnon dangling. I think he goes through six or seven Predators — he beats a few a couple of times — it doesn’t end up in the net, but that factor is always there.
“You have to be so aware. You can’t just go fishing for the puck (or) he’s going to make you look stupid if you do.”
There’s plenty of lippy talk going around the Winnipeg dressing room, these days.
“Movember” has arrived and several Jets are growing out their moustaches to mixed reviews.
“(Lowry’s) is the funniest (moustache). He’s got a red tinge in there, so it’s kind of funny. You can’t even look at him across the table and not laugh,” Scheifele said.
Lowry was more congenial with his take on the moustache movement.
“We started it and then a lot of guys hopped on board. It’s just a fun team thing,” he said.
“Frenchy (Mathieu Perreault) probably has the best one, but he’s had his for years and just finally shaved his beard. There’s no cheating in this. If you’ve got a moustache like that, I wouldn’t expect you to shave it off.”
And who would be the worst of the bunch?
“Well, it’s the guys that haven’t started participating,” Lowry said.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).