PREVIEW: Colorado Avalanche face Ducks again, look to ride momentum of OT win

Mar 5, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche right wing Valeri Nichushkin (13) scores against Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson (36) in overtime at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Avalanche didn’t have superstar Nathan MacKinnon in the lineup Friday when they faced the visiting Anaheim Ducks, but Valeri Nichushkin did his best impersonation of No. 29 to give Colorado a big 3-2 overtime win.

The Avalanche will go for the sweep of the two-game series with the Ducks when the teams meet again in Denver on Saturday night.

Colorado hoped to have MacKinnon back in the lineup Friday, two nights after he left in the third period following a hit to the head in a win at San Jose. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said after the morning skate that MacKinnon was good to go for Friday night, but the 25-year-old forward was scratched after “not feeling good” in the afternoon.

“The protocol says he can’t play, and we’re not going to put him out there and risk him getting hurt or making it worse,” Bednar said after the Friday night win. “I don’t know what that means as far (Saturday) or the next day, but I’m assuming he’ll miss a couple of games.”

Read More: RECAP: Valeri Nichushkin scores twice, including OT, as Avs edge Ducks

Colorado keeps dealing with injuries that have depleted the defensive corps and forwards. Blueliners Cale Makar and Bowen Byram have missed multiple games, and forward Matt Calvert hasn’t played in a week. Makar was close to returning for Friday’s game and could be in the lineup Saturday night.

Nichushkin doesn’t have MacKinnon’s flash or speed, but he has a big body that is hard to knock off the puck. He proved that Friday when he skated in front of the Anaheim goal and slid a shot through John Gibson for his first career overtime goal, his second tally of the night.

“People don’t give him a whole lot of respect or love around the league, but for us, he’s one of the hardest-working guys,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “He kind of does it all for us.”

Anaheim earned a point, but its winless streak extended to nine games (0-6-3). The Ducks’ past six losses have all been by one goal, with three of the past four ending with 3-2 scores. An even bigger loss was the announcement Thursday that defenseman Hampus Lindholm will miss six weeks with a fractured left wrist.

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Lindholm sustained the injury on Feb. 27, and tests on Thursday showed the extent of the injury.

“It’s certainly a tough blow for Hampus and the team,” Anaheim general manager Bob Murray said. “However, we’ve seen some young players on the back end improve this year, and this is an opportunity for them to get more reps.”

The Ducks did get some good news. Defenseman Josh Manson returned to the lineup Friday after missing nearly seven weeks with an oblique strain sustained against the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 18. Manson skated 23 shifts and logged 18:46 of ice time in the loss.

His play wasn’t enough to get Anaheim its first win since Feb. 11. The Ducks have been outscored by just 13 goals during the nine-game skid — and the last four games prior to the losing streak were all one-goal contests.

–Field Level Media