In the midst of a lackluster start to the season, the Colorado Avalanche are moving pieces around.
Coach Jared Bednar said defenseman Samuel Girard is out for Thursday’s game at the undefeated St. Louis Blues (5-0). Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos sent Girard awkwardly into the boards late in overtime Saturday.
“Girard's not at a place where he’s ready to skate with the group,” Bednar said.
Another defenseman, Devon Toews, traveled with the team but is still only cleared for controlled contact.
Getting key players back – Nathan MacKinnon missed early games due to COVID-19 protocol, Gabriel Landeskog because of a suspension – didn't conjure consistency for Colorado (2-4). Though the top line has produced, scoring five of the Avalanche’s past eight goals, that’s been about it.
Bednar started moving players around, hoping that MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen can create enough with a new linemate.
Meanwhile Landeskog went down to the second line, as he’s done at times in recent seasons, to play with Nazem Kadri. Logan O’Connor has been one of the Avalanche’s standouts so far and joined them the morning after a 3-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.
“With Val (Nichushkin) out, the second line is missing an element that they need to have success,” Bednar said.
“To me that line’s been too light and too perimeter. When you have Val on it, he does a lot of the same things that (O’Connor) does. They’re hard on pucks, they’re hard on the forecheck. If the other team has the puck, they’ll check it back. They go to the net hard.”
Though O’Connor said before the Vegas game that he needed to "round out" parts of his offensive game, the former checking-line forward’s willingness to dive in has seemingly earned him a tryout.
“Our game’s too slow, as a whole,” Bednar said Wednesday night. “It’s got to pick up.”