Avalanche return to host surprising Ducks

National Sports

A 16-day break in the schedule was a double-edged sword for the Colorado Avalanche.

On one hand, the Avalanche were surging the last time they played a home game, with five consecutive victories. On the other, they had 11 players test positive for the virus since their last game on Dec. 16.

They will return to action Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks in Denver’s Ball Arena, having had seven games postponed.

The unexpected pause to the season was inconvenient and will likely lead to a busy schedule ahead, but several players got healthy without missing any games. Colorado, barring any additional issues with health and safety protocols, will have nearly its entire roster available.

“We’ll probably be healthy for the first time all year,” defenseman Erik Johnson said.

Defensemen Bo Byram (upper-body injury) and Ryan Murray (lower-body injury) were full participants at practice this week and top-line forward Gabriel Landeskog (lower-body injury) missed just three games instead of eight or nine when he was hurt Dec. 10 against Detroit. Forwards Mikko Rantanen and Logan O’Connor are also back from the COVID-19 list.

“We were playing some pretty good hockey before the pause, even without guys,” coach Jared Bednar said. “But it’s certainly nice to get as close to our full roster as we’ve had all year back here for the Anaheim game.”

The Ducks had four games postponed and returned with losses Wednesday and Friday. They scored just two goals in the two games and have lost three straight overall, including their last game before the season went on pause.

Despite the losing streak Anaheim’s 17 wins matches last year’s total, when they finished with the second-worst record in the NHL. The Ducks sit second in the Pacific Division, just three points behind first-place Vegas.

Their offense is missing rookie Trevor Zegras, who is second on the team in scoring with 25 points, and Max Comtois due to health and safety protocols.

Cam Fowler sat out Friday’s loss at Vegas with an upper-body injury suffered against Vancouver on Wednesday. Forwards Adam Henrique (lower-body injury) and Max Jones (torn chest tendon) and defenseman Josh Mahura (upper-body injury) remained on injured reserve.

The injuries and absences have opened opportunities for other players. Sam Carrick, who has centered the fourth line, hasn’t registered a point in 26 games this season but he has made himself valuable for the Ducks.

“I know him and I have the greatest amount of comfort with him because I’ve coached him for so long,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said, alluding to their time in the AHL. “You can look at a guy like that and say, ‘It’s really surprising that he’s got seven goals and he’s in the league and all that.’ To me, I’m not surprised by it at all.”

–Field Level Media

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