IS MacKINNON PLAY­ING TOO NICE?

The Denver Post - - SPORTS -

nashville, tenn.»Avalanche cen­ter Nathan MacKinnon en­tered Tues­day’s game against the Nashville Preda­tors with zero penalty minutes. In 23 games, the first-line player known for his tal­ent and tough­ness had been a model cit­i­zen while log­ging 20:07 in av­er­age ice time, tops among for­wards.

But this is hockey, and in­ad­ver­tent trip­ping mi­nors and the oc­ca­sional fight­ing ma­jor are part of the big-league game. To that end, is MacKinnon play­ing too soft?

“I’m be­ing ag­gres­sive. I’m play­ing reg­u­larly, just not tak­ing any mi­nors. I think it’s a good thing,” MacKinnon, who ac­cu­mu­lated 80 penalty minutes in his first three NHL sea­sons, said af­ter the morn­ing skate at Bridge­stone Arena. “Usu­ally I’m good for some rough­ing penal­ties and I’ve asked a cou­ple guys to fight this year. I’m not try­ing to have zero penalty minutes. But I don’t like tak­ing mi­nors; it (stinks) be­ing in the box when the other team scores.”

Avalanche coach Jared Bed­nar isn’t con­cerned about MacKinnon’s clean slate with the sin bin.

“With Nate, it’s his skat­ing abil­ity that keeps him out of the box. It’s pretty ob­vi­ous for me,” Bed­nar said. “When you can track guys down with your feet, you don’t need to use your stick to hook and slash and what not. I see him as a phys­i­cal guy when he has the puck. He prob­a­bly could be a lit­tle more phys­i­cal with­out it. But again, he’s us­ing the tools he has to his ad­van­tage, and for me that’s his skat­ing.”

Avalanche for­ward Matt Duch­ene, who is cur­rently play­ing left wing, has com­mit­ted just one penalty, a mi­nor, this sea­son — de­spite log­ging an av­er­age of 18:23 per game. As a team, how­ever, Colorado is the NHL’s fourth-high­est in av­er­age penalty minutes, at 11:31.

Foot­notes.

Nashville power for­ward James Neal re­turned from a four-game in­jury ab­sence. … John Mitchell, de­spite be­ing point­less on the sea­son and placed on waivers last month, was Colorado’s third-line cen­ter against the Preda­tors. Duch­ene was his left winger and rookie Mikko Ran­ta­nen on the right. … Left wing Gabe Lan­deskog missed his ninth con­sec­u­tive game and de­fense­man Fedor Tyutin didn’t play in his se­cond con­sec­u­tive. Both are out with lower-body in­juries, but they skated Tues­day morn­ing and could re­turn Thurs­day at Boston. … New­comer Cody Goloubef, a de­fense­man ac­quired from Colum­bus’ Amer­i­can Hockey League af­fil­i­ate, made his Avalanche de­but and was paired with vet­eran Fran­cois Beau­chemin.

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