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Avalanche look for quick bounce-back game vs. Kings

Dec 27, 2022; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews (7) shoots against the Arizona Coyotes during the third period at Mullett Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Three straight wins after regulation sent the Colorado Avalanche into the holiday break with some momentum. It lasted less than two periods in their first game back.

The 6-3 loss at Arizona on Tuesday night was a setback, but Colorado has a chance for a quick rebound when it hosts the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.

The Avalanche played a sluggish game against the Coyotes, with the only bright spot being Mikko Rantanen’s 24th goal of the season. Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev struggled, allowing four goals on 22 shots through the first two periods.

Colorado has been without Nathan MacKinnon for the last 10 games, but that could change soon. MacKinnon, who suffered an upper-body injury at Philadelphia on Dec. 5, has ramped up his activity in an effort to beat the timeline of 4-5 weeks for a return.

“I think you give Nate a timeline and he’s going to beat it every time,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar told Altitude Radio on Tuesday. “That’s kind of the way he is, which is great news for us. This guy wants to play and wants to compete. That’s just the way he’s built. His injury isn’t an easy one to come through. So no, it doesn’t surprise me that he’s going to be back just a bit ahead of the timeline by the looks of things.”

MacKinnon’s return could ease the loss of Valeri Nichushkin, who reinjured his surgically-repaired ankle. Georgiev’s backup, Pavel Francouz, didn’t make the trip to Arizona because of a lower-body injury. Bednar said Wednesday Francouz is day to day but could miss more time than that.

Los Angeles is surging and has won five of its last six, including a 4-2 win over Vegas on Tuesday night. Like the Avalanche, the Kings have found success in extra time. Three of their last five wins have come in overtime or a shootout, and their only setback is a shootout loss to the Coyotes just before the holiday break.

The names of the Los Angeles stars have changed since the team’s second Stanley Cup title in 2014, but the newer guys are playing well. Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson had three points apiece, and Alex Iafallo had a goal and an assist in the win over the Golden Knights.

“Everybody’s pretty similar,” Iafallo said about Arvidsson and Danault, who are his linemates. “We’re just working hard, trying to get pucks to the net. Anybody can play any spot, so that’s what’s really good about this team.”

Jonathan Quick has been the mainstay in net for the Kings for more than a decade but has struggled as of late. Meanwhile, rookie Pheonix Copley has been playing well since being recalled from the AHL on Dec. 1.

Copley is 7-1 in his eight starts, with the only loss, 6-0 at Buffalo, serving as an anomaly. He has allowed two or fewer goals in six of his other seven starts and has a 2.43 goals-against average.

“He’s very relaxed in the net, it doesn’t look like he’s panicking at any point, he’s just making saves and he’s getting up and doing it all over again,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said.

–Field Level Media