NHL

Avalanche briefly looks ahead to NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe on Saturday

For approximately 20 minutes Monday, Avalanche captain Gabe Landeskog and star defenseman Cale Makar looked past Tuesday’s rematch against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.

Landeskog and Makar didn’t play in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the Knights in Las Vegas, but Makar might play Tuesday and both likely will be in the lineup Saturday against the Knights in an NBC-televised event at Lake Tahoe.

Saturday’s contest, the third of a four-game “series” against Vegas, was the topic Monday as the scenic outdoor game on the 18th fairway of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort golf course approaches. Landeskog, who is at the tail end of his COVID-19 protocol, confirmed he will practice with the Avs at the Lake Tahoe rink Friday. And so did Makar, who missed Sunday’s game with an upper-body injury.

“I like to be in present, but at the end of the day it’s a pretty big game (Saturday), so I think quite a few guys are excited — looking forward to it,” Makar said from Las Vegas in a video conference call that also included Vegas forwards Mark Stone and Jonathan Marchessault. “But, yeah, you still want to take it day-by-day.”

Landeskog, who was added to the COVID protocol absence list Feb. 4, appeared to be talking from his home office in Denver.

“I think it’s one of purest forms of the game that we can play,” he said of playing his third outdoor game with the Avs. “Most of us grew up skating on lakes and outdoor rinks and it just makes it very special to be able to do that at the highest level possible. Normally, the big crowds make it very special and this time it will be a little bit different, but nonetheless a very unique experience.”

Lake Tahoe construction began last week for a two-game weekend event that will not have fans. The Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins also play on the south shore of Lake Tahoe in another Sunday matinee.

Depth defense. The Avs, despite missing three of their top defenseman Sunday, allowed just 24 shots and one goal against the high-scoring Knights. Colorado was missing Makar, Sam Girard and Erik Johnson on the back end. But blue-liner Devon Toews, who had missed the previous three games with an ankle/foot injury, logged a season-high 25:56 to lead the team. Rookie defenseman Bo Byram, 19, logged a career-high 23:07 and led the Avs with five hits. He also blocked three shots. And Ryan Graves played 21:35 in what coach Jared Bednar said was his best game of the season.

Bednar also had good things to say about fill-in defenseman Jacob MacDonald, who logged 19:41 in his third NHL appearance this season. If it weren’t for his two penalties, rookie defenseman Conor Timmins (19:00) would have probably also been praised.

The Avalanche’s depth at defense still includes Greg Pateryn, who was acquired from Minnesota for defenseman Ian Cole last month. But Pateryn is currently playing for the AHL’s Colorado Eagles while earning his $2.5 million salary.

Footnotes. Goalie Adam Werner is with the Avs on emergency loan and the 2016 fifth-round draft pick backed up starter Philipp Grubauer for the first time this season Sunday. Hunter Miska, who has made two starts to give Grubauer a break, is also with the team on emergency loan as the Eagles are going with Peyton Jones and Trent Minor in net. Grubauer’s ideal backup, Pavel Francouz, remains on long-term injured reserve with a lower-body injury. … Because of COVID-19 protocol, Avs defenseman Sam Girard had his team-high ironman streak of 231 consecutive regular-season games end. It was the second-longest streak all-time by an Avalanche defenseman behind Martin Skoula (285).

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