One of the key components to the early success of the Colorado Avalanche has been outstanding depth at center. With Matt Duchene sidelined for at least a week with an oblique injury, suddenly that depth dries up a bit and forces head coach Patrick Roy to use Nathan MacKinnon as the team’s No. 1 center.
While Roy has done an outstanding job of insulating the top pick from the 2013 draft and preventing him from eating too many tough matchups, he’s out of options with his typical 1-2 punch of Duchene and Stastny in limbo.
According to Mike Chambers of the Denver Post, MacKinnon will slot in for Duchene and center a top line featuring Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly. That leaves Stastny with Jamie McGinn on the left side and P.A. Parenteau on the right.
Those are rock solid trios, but they’ll be tested in a big way when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow. While the Avs are still trying to shake off the residual effects of a 7-3 beat down at the hands of the St. Louis Blues that has snowballed into three consecutive losses, the ‘Hawks are just now finding their championship gear.
Chicago is coming off of a 5-1 victory over the not-too-shabby San Jose Sharks and is sitting pretty with a 14-3-4 record. The ‘Hawks could also be getting Marian Hossa back from injury.
All of this points to a notable test for MacKinnon, who will probably be going heads-up against Jonathan Toews for most of this contest. In what will be the 20th contest of the first-overall draft choice’s NHL career, he’ll get a firsthand look at what a top-end, elite center looks like at this level.
It’ll be interesting to see how the ultra-competitive MacKinnon responds to the challenge. Don’t look for him to wilt, but this isn’t going to be an easy draw for the kid either.