Red-hot MacKinnon, Avalanche host Stars
DENVER -- Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon is firing on all cylinders as the Avalanche return home to face the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night.
MacKinnon has six goals and 17 points in his last nine games. In Colorado's 4-3 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, he assisted on the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation before scoring the winner on a 2-on-1 chance in extra time.
With seven points in his last three games, the 22-year-old was named the NHL's No. 3 star for the week.
"I feel like this is where I should be," MacKinnon told the Denver Post about his recent success.
The Avalanche, meanwhile, are an impressive 6-1-0 at the Pepsi Center this season and officially are 6-1-1 at home -- with their 4-3 overtime loss to Ottawa in Stockholm, Sweden on Nov. 10 counted as a home game.
It's a small sample size but still a giant sigh of relief for the Avs, who were a league-worst 13-26-2 in the Mile High City a year ago.
"The last few years we haven't been very good at home," defenseman Erik Johnson told HockeyBuzz.com. "It's fun winning in front of your fans. All the good teams in this league win at home and have dominant records at home usually, so hopefully we can follow that trend and continue to do that."
Colorado will have to do so Wednesday without starting goalie Semyon Varlamov, who will miss his second straight game with an illness. Backup Jonathan Bernier will again take the crease after stopping 21 shots against Detroit.
In seven starts this season, the ex-Ducks goalie is 3-4-0 and has allowed 25 goals. On Sunday, though, Avs coach Jared Bednar said he liked the way Bernier looked.
"He had a really good night the other night," Bednar told HockeyBuzz.com.
The Stars will look to change their fortune in back-to-back sets this season. They beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Tuesday behind 29 saves from goalie Ben Bishop, but are 1-4 in games played on consecutive nights.
Dallas' win came without defenseman Marc Methot, who underwent arthroscopic surgery and will be sidelined 4-to-6 weeks. Methot missed five straight games while trying to work with his knee injury before the team decided on surgery.
"It looked like it was coming around; he did his rehab, started skating, and it didn't get better," Stars general manager Jim Nill told the Dallas News. "They did another MRI and decided they had to do the scope on it."
The Stars were also without center Martin Hanzal, who has a hand injury expected to keep him out for 3-to-7 days. The 30-year-old center's season of injuries continues as his new ailment comes after he missed training camp with an ankle injury and another three games earlier this month with a lower-body issue.
Hanzal has one goal and two assists in 17 games this season.
"I feel for Marty," Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock told NHL.com. "This is the third or fourth time just as he gets up to speed and starts to really look good, (and) there is an injury. You feel for a guy like that. He wants to do well and it just seems that in the game he has the most impact, he gets hurt."
The Stars moved to 11-9-1 on the year after Tuesday's win but are 3-7-1 on the road.
Hitchcock said he believes his team will get better from its middling start.
"I see a team forging an identity," Hitchcock told the Dallas News. "It's a process. I'm really enjoying the process, because I'm seeing a team emerge. It's going to be hard, it's going to be very challenging, and we've got a long way to go."
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