Talking points from two heavyweight showdowns on NHL Sunday

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nathan MacKinnon (29)
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29). Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Nathan MacKinnon is back

Nathan MacKinnon is back and that is great news for the Colorado Avalanche, greats news for hockey purists and very bad news for the Vegas Golden Knights. The superstar center went down with a lower-body injury two weeks ago but he only missed one game with the Avs being shut down due to COVID-19.

So, not only will the Avalanche be returning to play against the Golden Knights today after a long layoff, they will also be hitting the ice with their franchise cornerstone and the timing could not be any more perfect. After all, MacKinnon leads the Avs in points with 14 (2 G, 12 A) and everything they do goes through him.

He can do things with the puck on his stick that mere mortals can only dream of, and his presence on the ice should make life a lot easier for the Avalanche today who may need a period or two to blow off the rust. Granted, a slow start could prove costly against a loaded Golden Knights team that have won four of their last five (4-1-0), but having MacKinnon back will ensure that the Colorado Avalanche can hang with their main rivals in the West Division, especially considering that stud defenseman Cale Makar is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

MacKinnon’s return is only the tip of the iceberg too given that these are two absolute juggernauts in the West, and both franchises will be hoping to embark on deep postseason runs this year given how loaded and uber-talented they are. Tonight’s game is also the first of four matchups between the Avalanche and the Golden Knights this month, including a showdown at Lake Tahoe on Feb. 20, and tonight could well set the tone for what is to come given that whichever team is able to get the edge over these four games could well be in superb position when it comes to eventually clinching the No. 1 seed in the West.