The best players in Colorado’s lineup during its final home preseason game Sunday night all looked ready for the ones that count.
Both power-play units scored a goal and the Avs had little trouble with a not-very-NHL laden Dallas Stars at Ball Arena. Here are a few observation’s from Colorado’s 4-3 win.
1. Top line clicks
This was the first time Colorado’s presumptive first line of Nathan MacKinnon flanked by Mikko Rantanen and Jonathan Drouin has skated together in a preseason game. It’s also the first time that MacKinnon and Drouin have played together since the 2016 World Cup of Hockey when they suited up for “Team North America,” a collection of the best young players from Canada and the United States.
The Avs’ top trio created a Grade-A scoring chance in the first minute of each of the first two periods. Both times it was MacKinnon feeding Drouin, his former junior teammate in Halifax, near the front of the net.
Drouin in particular had a strong offensive night, though he was unable to convert several great chances. He showed his high hockey IQ with a couple of nifty plays. One was a bank pass off the boards to MacKinnon on their second shift – that chemistry from a decade ago looked pretty evident. Drouin also set up the overtime goal.
2. Tough decisions ahead
The Avs have several forwards fighting for either one or two forwards spots – the fourth-line center role and possibly a 13th/14th guy. There are definitely more guys in this group who have played well than spots available.
Riley Tufte opened the scoring, his third goal in three preseason games, and set up another. That’s a great way to make an impression, but it might not be what the Avs need to see him from to earn a spot.
They’ve tried him at center, but he’s played better on the wing. Tufte is big and likes to play around the net. He could have a role for this team later in the year after some time with the Colorado Eagles if he doesn’t make it out of camp.
Fredrik Olofsson could be the favorite for the No. 4C role. He’s played there a lot in camp, and played in both 4-on-5 and 3-on-5 penalty-killing situations Sunday night. He also scored a pretty goal, knocking the rebound of a Tufte shout out of mid-air.
Ben Meyers is also in that competition, and had one good scoring in this game, but he also took a penalty.
Joel Kiviranta is on a player-tryout contract, but he is also an experienced NHL player who fits what Colorado could use as a depth player. He was next to Olofsson on the penalty kill against the Stars.
3. “Georgie” is ready, too
Alexandar Georgiev went the distance for the Avs in net. He’d played one-half of the first three games. There was a late wobble, which allowed the Stars to push the game to overtime. But for about 57 minutes, Georgiev looked sharp.
It was a very slow start for him because his team had the puck so much, and Nick Caamano surprised him with a shot through the five-hole early in the second period. There were also two late Dallas goals — one on a strange, scrambled sequence in front of him and a 6-on-5 tally in the final minute.
The Avs could give him one of the final two preseason games as well, but Georgiev probably doesn’t need it.
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