Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss at least six games, beginning Tuesday night against the visiting New York Rangers.
“He’ll be out until after Christmas,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said after the morning skate at Ball Arena.
Toews, who leads all NHL defensemen in points per game (1.15) and is tied for first in plus-minus rating (plus-19), will be replaced by rookie Justin Barron against the Rangers. The 20-year-old will make his NHL debut after playing in 14 of 21 games for the AHL’s Colorado Eagles. Barron missed three weeks with an injury.
“Just really excited, really happy to be here, and definitely a special day,” said Barron, the Avs’ 2020 first-round draft pick. “I’m really looking forward to tonight.”
Barron’s ice time will depend on how he plays, but there’s no chance he’ll log Toews-type minutes. Toews, who leads the Avs at 24:58, has exceeded 25 minutes in four of his last five games. He logged a season-high 31:17 on Dec. 4 at Ottawa and 29:14 in Sunday’s 3-2 victory over Florida.
Bednar said Toews is symptomatic, thus not scheduled to return until after next week’s pre-Christmas trip through Detroit, Buffalo and Boston. The Avs visit Nashville on Thursday and host Tampa Bay on Saturday to complete this week.
Barron was the Avs’ last cut ahead of the Oct. 13 season opener. He trained in the offseason with Nathan MacKinnon in their Nova Scotia hometown of Halifax and was Team Canada teammates with Colorado forward Alex Newhook and defenseman Bo Byram last year. Barron’s familiarity with the big club should help him adjust to his new setting.
“Being here pretty much until the end (of preseason), you get pretty familiar with the guys. You’re seeing them at the rink every day. And obviously knowing Nate and Newy and Bo Byram pretty well, it makes it a lot easier for me to just come up, come in here and try to fit in,” he said.
The Avs are now missing three defensemen, including Byram (head) and Jacob MacDonald (upper-body). Bednar is confident Barron, despite his inexperience, will step in seamlessly.
“From Day 1 of rookie camp all the way through this time with us, we were impressed,” the coach said. “It’s a good opportunity. Hopefully, he can come up and play well and continue to build on what he’s been doing there down with the Eagles.”
Colorado will have leading scorer Nazem Kadri back in the lineup against the Rangers. Kadri, who is fourth in NHL scoring with 34 points in just 22 games, missed the last two games with a lower-body injury that he sustained last week in New York. He had a season-high four points in that game despite not playing in the third period.
The Avs will continue on without left wing and team captain Gabe Landeskog, who will miss his second game with a lower-body injury that will require two weeks of recovery.
In addition to Barron, forward Mikhail Maltsev was recalled from the Eagles and will presumably play his fifth game with the Avs on Tuesday.
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