Donskoi to miss start of important homestand with concussion
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The Avalanche are about to begin a critical five-game homestand leading into the NHL All-Star break and bye week – they play Pittsburgh on Friday at the Pepsi Center -- and they’ll start it without top line forward Joonas Donskoi, who is going through concussion protocol.
Donskoi, who has 29 points (14 goals, 15 assists) in 44 games, was injured on a hit by the New York Rangers’ Ryan Lindgren in Tuesday’s game at Madison Square Garden. Lindgren wasn’t penalized and the NHL Department of Player Safety decided not to discipline him after a hearing.
“I disagreed with it, but it’s their call,” coach Jared Bednar said after practice Thursday.
Mikko Rantanen returned to the first line in place of Donskoi at practice with Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon.
The Avalanche, coming off a disappointing 1-2-0 road trip, have gone 3-6-1 in the past 10 games and fallen to third place in the Central Division; they’re tied with Dallas with 54 points, but the Stars have played one fewer game.
Colorado is just three points ahead of Calgary, which is eighth in the West for the second wild card playoff position, and four in front of ninth-place Vancouver.
“Yeah, it’s a big homestand,” Landeskog said. “We have to make sure we get back to winning ways here and get some points and put this 3-6-1 in the rear view mirror and make sure that we move on and get back to winning hockey games before the break.”
After Pittsburgh, the Avalanche will play Dallas, San Jose, St. Louis and Detroit on the homestand. They lost four straight home games before defeating the Blues 7-3 on Jan. 2.
While the Avalanche are a respectable 14-8-2 on the road, they are a mediocre 11-7-2 at home.
“I don’t think we’ve been as good as we wanted to be at Pepsi Center," Bednar said. "We haven’t been as good as we wanted to be recently in some of our games, just inconsistency in our game. We haven’t been good enough lately.”
The Avalanche have 38 games remaining to secure a playoff spot, with earning home ice the goal.
“There's always an urgency,” MacKinnon said. “We want to win every game at home and try to keep chasing the division lead, hopefully get home ice in the playoffs, something that's very important to us and that we haven't had the last couple years. It would be great to finish top two in our division.”
Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar is a Last Men In candidate to join MacKinnon on the Central Division team for the NHL All-Star Game. He’s second among NHL rookies in scoring with 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists) in 36 games and seventh among all defensemen.
Voting ends Friday at 9:59 p.m. MT.
Fans can vote at NHL.com/Vote or on a mobile interactive ballot on the NHL app.