Scorching-hot Nathan MacKinnon leads Avs against falling Kings

League: NHL

Posted on: 25 Jan, 2024 at 10:39 PM

Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche are a game away from a long break but don't expect them to be thinking about vacation and ignore the Los Angeles Kings, Friday night's opponent.

Colorado has one player who makes sure everyone is locked in, and he happens to be a strong Hart Trophy candidate.

Nathan MacKinnon is coming off of a four-goal, five-point night in Wednesday's win over Washington and has nine points in two games.

MacKinnon never rests on what he has done but focuses on what has to be done, according to his coach, Jared Bednar, and he pushes his teammates to match his dedication.

"Nate has a routine after the game that he does at home, on the road, it doesn't matter because that's what makes him ready for the next game," Bednar said after MacKinnon's second four-goal game of the season and first natural hat trick.

"Some of his teammates have followed suit. He's pushing other guys, which makes us better."

MacKinnon has 82 points and ended Wednesday night as the top scorer in the NHL. He's on a 140-point pace, which would break Peter Stastny's franchise record of 139 set in 1981-82 when the team was in Quebec.

More important to the Avalanche, he is pulling them to the top of the standings heading into a prolonged break. Colorado will have its bye week after playing Los Angeles, then the NHL All-Star weekend before resuming its schedule Feb. 5 with a six-game road trip that kicks off at the New York Rangers.

The Kings won't have that much time off but might need it. Los Angeles has lost 12 of 14 games (2-7-5), the past two against teams with losing records, San Jose and Buffalo, and the nosedive has spurred rumblings that coach Todd McLellan's job is in jeopardy.

"I'm responsible for this," he said after an uninspired 5-3 loss to the Sabres on Wednesday night. "And when you look at the team that played the first 25-30 games if you will, it doesn't look like the team that's playing right now and I'm responsible for it.

"Our staff is doing what we can or what we believe we can to get them to turn it around. We're trying different things at different times."

So far general manager Rob Blake has publicly supported McLellan but, considering how Edmonton has rebounded after firing its coach in November, may have a different idea if the losing continues.

The Kings started the year 16-4-3 but since a Dec. 27 win over the Sharks have earned just nine points, five of which came from playing beyond regulation.

Wednesday's loss is the type that prompts coaching changes. Los Angeles led 3-1 after the first period but gave up four straight goals.

"What I'm seeing is we're not playing as a team right now," captain Anze Kopitar said. "We're worried about scoring goals too much and not buying into the stuff that made us successful the first 30, 35 games of the year."

-Field Level Media