Sharks Avalanche Hockey

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, left, confers with defenseman Cale Makar in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks, Thursday, March 31, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER - Nathan MacKinnon didn't finish out the Colorado Avalanche’s recent two-game road trip. Coach Jared Bednar said MacKinnon had X-rays done, then left the team for further evaluation.

That must have gone well because Bednar said MacKinnon was “good to go” Thursday morning. He took up his usual spot on the top line against the San Jose Sharks and played 22:37 with two shots on goal. He set up teammate Cale Makar for a point-blank chance in the first period.

MacKinnon was seen icing his hand after a fight with the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba on Sunday, possibly the source of concern. Bednar said he wouldn’t tell his talented forward – a Hart Trophy finalist each of the past two seasons – to let someone else handle it next time.

“The game has to be played with passion and it has to be played with physicality,” the coach said.

Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson has fought at least once every season since he broke into the league in 2014-15, according to hockeyfights.com. With the benefit of hindsight, the 6-foot-3, 218-pound trade deadline pickup praised the fight to some extent.

But he’d still rather handle it if necessary.

“He’s so strong and he’s built like a bull, so you know he’s got it in him,” Manson said. “When he steps up for his teammates like that, it shows that he’s not scared, obviously.

“But at the same time, you’re kind of sitting there worried that something bad might happen because we don’t need him to do that. We need him on the ice for the rest of the season and into the postseason. We have other guys, like myself, that can take care of that for him.

“But when he steps in and he does a good job like that, you can’t help but get excited for it.”

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