MacKinnon, Avalanche look to rebound from frustrating season
DENVER (AP) Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon will be standing a little taller on the ice this season.
The 20-year-old Avalanche forward grew nearly an inch to 6-foot-1 and bulked up 15 pounds during the summer. He also worked out in Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby.
Colorado expects big things from the speedy MacKinnon after a season in which they missed the playoffs.
''We're pretty hungry. I can feel it,'' said MacKinnon, who arrived at the rink for physicals Thursday, a day ahead of training camp. ''There are good vibes around the dressing room.''
First, they have to get to know each other. This team was overhauled in the offseason, bringing in big-hitting defenseman Francois Beauchemin and forward Blake Comeau. They also acquired forward Carl Soderberg from Boston in exchange for a draft pick and defenseman Nikita Zadorov as part of the deal that sent Ryan O'Reilly to Buffalo.
''We have some new faces,'' captain Gabriel Landeskog said. ''But I speak for the whole group when I say training camp couldn't come fast enough.''
It was a long offseason of watching playoff hockey rather than competing. After making the postseason in Patrick Roy's first season, the Avalanche got off to a slow start last season and suffered injuries late, including the loss of MacKinnon to a broken foot.
They wound up last in the Central Division of the Western Conference.
''You can't play in fear, you've got to play in confidence and excitement,'' Matt Duchene said. ''That's probably going to be our focus. If we get off to a slow start, be able to reel it back in, not let it go as long as last year.
''We finished strong and want to pick up where we left off.''
That's why Beauchemin signed with Colorado after spending 8 1/2 of the last 10 seasons in Anaheim. He sees the potential, especially from players such as MacKinnon.
After winning rookie of the year, MacKinnon slumped in his sophomore season before wrapping up in March because of his foot injury.
''He had a great summer, and I'm sure he'll have a great year,'' Roy said. ''The second year, for some reason, is always the toughest one and we learned a lot from it.''
MacKinnon spent the offseason working out with Crosby in Los Angeles and back home in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
''It's always good to work out with a guy like that,'' MacKinnon said. ''He's the best player in the world. When you watch him on the ice, that's when you learn the most.''
One thing's for sure: There's plenty of depth on this team. More than Roy can recall in years.
Colorado also has a healthy Erik Johnson back on the ice. The defenseman was in the midst of an All-Star season before being sidelined by a knee injury. Johnson will be paired with Beauchemin this season.
''Everyone knows we're for real and we're a good team,'' Johnson said. ''We started the season last year so poorly and still ended up with 90 points. We have to have a good start to the year and not go through any stretches where we're playing consecutively losing hockey and I think we'll be OK.
''We have a really talented group.''
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