|Avs look to returning MacKinnon for boost vs. Oilers|
Frowns turned into smiles in less than 24 hours for the Colorado Avalanche.
After the Avalanche were pummeled in Winnipeg on Friday night, their struggling offense got a boost Saturday when it was announced that leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon will return to the lineup when Colorado hosts the Edmonton Oilers.
MacKinnon has missed eight games with a left shoulder injury suffered Jan. 30 in Vancouver.
The Avalanche (31-22-4) went 4-4 in his absence but struggled to score. They had two or fewer goals in five of the eight games, were shut out once and nearly blanked again in Winnipeg but got a late goal to make it 6-1.
MacKinnon, who was second in the league in scoring when he got hurt, has 24 goals and 37 assists in 49 games. He said he's ready to go against the Oilers.
"A hundred percent, I feel good," he told HockeyBuzz.com after going through a full practice Saturday.
Edmonton (23-30-4) is coming off a 1-0 loss in Arizona on Saturday afternoon and has fallen out of playoff contention despite having the reigning MVP in Connor McDavid.
Saturday's loss was the sixth straight for the fading team, and it faces an enormous task going against Colorado.
The Avalanche may have struggled to score, but most of those issues have been on the road. At home, they are riding a 10-game winning streak and have a hot goaltender in Semyon Varlamov, who had 43 saves in a 2-0 win over Montreal on Wednesday night and came in relief of Jonathan Bernier on Friday.
Bernier is in the concussion protocol after being injured against the Jets. The Avalanche recalled Andrew Hammond from Belleville of the AHL to back up Varlamov on Sunday.
Edmonton is dealing with concussion issues of its own. Goaltender Laurent Brossoit was recalled from the AHL before Saturday's game after regular backup Al Montoya took a puck to the mask in practice Friday.
The Oilers are searching for answers during their losing streak but haven't found any yet. They are 19 points out of the second wild card in the Western Conference and unlikely to make up that ground.
Right now, they would like one win to remember what it feels like.
"We're not playing with enough detail and enough intensity in some of the things to give us success right now, and that's the difference," center Mark Letestu told the Edmonton Sun earlier this week. "There's a recipe for winning and it's to work a little bit harder and be more detailed than the team across from you and we haven't been that team recently."
Colorado hopes its recipe for winning is getting MacKinnon back. It is three points behind Minnesota for the second wild card and has played one fewer game, but has three teams to pass including the Wild. When MacKinnon was injured, the Avalanche were in playoff position, so getting their best player back is a big boost.
Moreover, he feels good.
"I've been skating for two weeks," MacKinnon told HockeyBuzz.com. "The past 13 days I skated 12 times."
Colorado coach Jared Bednar was certainly happy to deliver the news that MacKinnon will play.
"You get your best player back, it's a positive, no question," he told HockeyBuzz.com. "He drives our offense in a lot of ways. We need him back, but we can't just rely on Nate."