The Avalanche began a three-game homestand Thursday against Florida and featured the same 11-forward, seven-defensemen look it used during its recent four-game road trip. Coach Jared Bednar had just two set lines and the other five forwards rotated in based on the coach’s feel, same as the extra defenseman.
Normally, teams go with 12 forwards and six defensemen. Bednar was partly sticking with the nontraditional lineup because rookie center Alex Kerfoot missed his second consecutive game with a foot injury and winger Nail Yakupov wasn’t 100 percent after battling an illness.
Kerfoot, who is tied for third on the team in scoring with 21 points (nine goals), inadvertently took a shot off the foot from teammate Erik Johnson in Monday’s 2-1 win at Pittsburgh. He could return to the lineup Saturday against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Swelling is starting to go down,” Bednar said of Kerfoot, who was tied for third among NHL rookie scorers. “He felt a little better yesterday and even better today. He’s still day-to-day.”
Yakupov, who was a healthy scratch twice to begin the recent road trip, might also return to the lineup Saturday.
Twenty-something. First-line center Nathan MacKinnon entered Thursday having played more than 21 minutes in each of the last five games. He is averaging 19:47 on the season. MacKinnon, 22, has been double-shifting lately, going from his regular line with Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen to playing with other wingers after a quick break on the bench.
Bednar said he wants MacKinnon on the ice as much as possible in what has been his career-best start to a season. He entered Thursday leading the Avs in goals (11), assists (22) and points (33).
Footnotes. The Avalanche honored trainer Matt Sokolowski during a first-period timeout. In his 27th year with the Quebec Nordiques/Avalanche franchise, Sokolowski worked his 2,000th NHL game Saturday at Florida. … The Avalanche has 15 games this month, including nine at home, which ties the franchise record. Colorado also had 15 games in December last year. … Goalie Semyon Varlamov, who back-stopped Colorado’s 7-3 win over the Panthers on Saturday in Sunrise, Fla., made his second consecutive start.