IS MacKINNON PLAYING TOO NICE?
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.
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.