Fans vote Landeskog to ASG; all's well with Bednar, MacKinnon
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Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog will join linemates Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen in the NHL All-Star festivities Jan. 25-26 at the SAP Center in San Jose.
The NHL announced on Friday that Landeskog won the “Last Men In” fan voting as the Central Division’s final player. The skills event is set for Friday, Jan. 25, the 3-on-3 All-Star Game competition on Saturday, Jan. 26.
It will be the first time that three Avalanche players will take part in an NHL All-Star Game since 2003-04 when Rob Blake, Joe Sakic and Alex Tanguay played for the Western Conference in Minnesota.
Landeskog has scored a career-high and team-leading 27 goals, one more than he had in 2013-14. He’s third in the NHL, trailing Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (30) and Buffalo’s Jeff Skinner (29).
"That's very exciting,” Landeskog told the Avalanche web site after practice in Montreal, where Colorado plays on Saturday. “Obviously the All-Star Game is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a really cool experience. To be voted by the fans means a lot. It's something I'm really thankful for, and very thankful for the opportunity."
All is well between coach Jared Bednar and MacKinnon, whose temper tantrum on the bench in the final seconds of Wednesday’s game in Calgary was captured on video by SportsNet, which broadcast the game in Canada.
MacKinnon threw down a water bottle, looked back at Bednar and yelled something just before the end of the Avalanche’s 5-3 loss. He fell backward and was pulled up by Landeskog, who calmed him down.
“That’s unacceptable on my part, I can’t be doing that stuff,” MacKinnon told a large group of reporters after practice Friday. “I was just really frustrated, but I love playing for Bedsy. Everyone loves playing for Bedsy in here. That’s on me, and I take responsibility for it.”
MacKinnon said he thought goalie Semyon Varlamov should have stayed on the bench after he left the ice for an extra skater before the Avalanche scored to pull within 4-3 with 38 seconds remaining. Varlamov returned to his crease for the ensuing faceoff at center ice, left 14 seconds later, and the Flames scored an empty-net goal to make it 5-3.
“And that’s all it was,” MacKinnon said. “It was stupid. I was just taking my frustrations out on that.”
MacKinnon and Bednar spoke after the game and on Friday said everything is fine.
“Bedsy’s the least sensitive guy ever, so it’s all good,” MacKinnon said. “Arguments happen, it’s the NHL. We want to win around here, and obviously we haven’t been doing that lately. But it’s just unfortunate that it got caught on camera.
“I saw it after the game in Calgary, and I was pretty rattled in my hotel room, just looking like an idiot, screaming. So that can’t happen again.”
Bednar said he has a "thick skin" and that the incident didn’t bother him. He said emotions were running high and is hopeful the Avalanche can channel that passion in a positive way to end the rut they are in. They’ve lost eight of the past nine games (1-6-2).
“That’s what I love about Nathan and about certain guys on our team -- the fire and passion and emotion that they play with,” Bednar said. “That’s what you need in this game. I think that it’s an important part of the game and that’s what makes him so good, and I never want to curb that.
“My job as a coach is just to make sure we’re driving that emotion and that passion and that energy into the right places and focusing it in the right place and we’re doing it in a positive way and that will lead to winning. To me, I forgot about it by the time we went down the tunnel. I thought we should chat about it, and we did, and all’s good.”
The Avalanche reassigned forward Logan O’Connor to the AHL Colorado Eagles and are expected to activate forward Colin Wilson, who has missed eight games with an upper-body injury.
Wilson and defenseman Mark Barberio took part in the full practice session Friday. Barberio has missed 19 games with an upper-body injury.
Defenseman Patrik Nemeth was ill and didn’t practice. Neither did defenseman Tyson Barrie and right wing Mikko Rantanen, who were given “maintenance” days.
Bednar said that defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who has missed nine games with a lower-body injury, has been skating in Denver and might join the team on this road trip. The Avalanche play in Toronto and Ottawa after Saturday.