Avs getting big help back in time for Blackhawks

The Colorado Avalanche may be dealing with a number of injuries, but they have found a way to keep winning.

And now they are getting back one of their biggest offensive pieces as forward Mikko Rantanen is expected to return to the lineup for Saturday night's home game against the Chicago Blackhawks. It is the second of a back-to-back set between the teams.

Colorado won the first matchup, 5-2, in Chicago on Friday afternoon.

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Rantanen has been out since Oct. 21 with a lower-body injury suffered at St. Louis. He has missed the last 16 games, and his return will be a big boost to a Colorado lineup that has used 17 forwards so far this season.

Rantanen has been skating for a while and practicing this past week, but Colorado held off on bringing him back to make sure he was 100 percent.

"Injuries are toughest mentally," Rantanen told reporters during the week. "You want to help the team, but you're out for four or five weeks. It's not the easiest thing, but it's part of this sport. ... You really don't skate in three weeks and it takes a while to get back in shape. I feel pretty good now, so I'll be ready soon.

"We've had a lot of injuries. It hasn't been easy for the team, but they've done an unbelievable job."

Rantanen was off to a strong start with five goals and seven assists in nine games while playing with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. Landeskog went down a few days after Rantanen, but MacKinnon has continued to play well.

He had a goal and three assists against Chicago on Friday and now has 16 goals and 23 assists in his first 25 games.

The Blackhawks will be looking for a measure of revenge after Friday's game. They outshot Colorado 36-23 but fell behind early and couldn't recover.

Chicago has dealt with the injury bug, as well, but it has given younger guys a chance to prove themselves. Most notably, it has been 18-year-old rookie Kirby Dach, the team's first-round pick and third player taken in the 2019 draft.

Dach has five goals and five assists in 19 games this season and has moved up to the second line with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat. He figures to log a little more ice time.

"He probably gets out there a little more, and then obviously you're playing with two pretty good, dynamic offensive players in Kane and DeBrincat, so it is an opportunity for him," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said Friday. "But we don't really want him to change his game; we want him to play the same way. He's a good player and he can make plays."

Chicago was on a bit of a roll before Friday's loss to the Avalanche, having gone 6-2-2 in its previous 10 games but couldn't solve Colorado goaltender Pavel Francouz, who made 34 saves. The Blackhawks are expected to start Robin Lehner in net after Corey Crawford played Friday.

The Avalanche's No. 1 goaltender, Philipp Grubauer, should get the start.

--Field Level Media

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