The Colorado Avalanche are battling for a top spot in the NHL’s Western Conference, but they’ll have to do so without the services of their top scorer for the next few games.
Nathan MacKinnon will miss 1-2 weeks with a lower-body injury, the team announced Wednesday. A top contender for the Hart Trophy, MacKinnon suffered an unspecified injury on Monday during Colorado’s 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, playing just 11:37 of that game.
The 24-year-old center underwent an MRI on Tuesday that showed no signs of a serious injury, according to Colorado Hockey Now’s Adrian Dater. Despite the relatively positive outlook, the Avs will still have to make do without the prolific pivot for a while.
MacKinnon hasn’t missed a game so far this season, which Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said may have played a factor in sidelining the team’s most reliable scoring threat.
“I don’t think it was one incident. I just think he went out to play and didn’t feel great sometime during the first period and decided to call it quits,” Bednar said Tuesday on Altitude 92.5 FM, as quoted by The Athletic. “We have a lot of guys who are battling those little injuries right now. It’s that time of year. You look at the schedule and the amount of games we’re playing and we’ve been trying to give them as much rest as we possibly can and just go game days only and days off in between. That’s the way we feel we have to run here, especially with all the injuries we have.”
MacKinnon joins an injury list that belies how well the Avalanche have fared this season. The team is currently missing Nazem Kadri (lower body), Matt Calvert (lower body), Philipp Grubauer (lower body), Mikko Rantanen (upper body) and Andre Burakovsky (lower body/upper body), although it does expect rookie sensation Cale Makar (upper body) to return to the lineup Wednesday after missing five games.
The Avalanche enter Wednesday embroiled in a fight with the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Central Division and the Western Conference. St. Louis is two points up on Colorado, but the Avs have a game in hand and the tiebreaker.
However, missing MacKinnon’s considerable output could hinder the Avalanche’s ability to catch them; he has 93 points (35 goals, 58 assists) through 69 games this season, nearly double the next-best player (Makar) on the Avs’ scoring list.
Colorado is playing every other day for the remainder of March, meaning MacKinnon would miss seven games if he’s out for the full two weeks.