Colorado Avalanche vs. Florida Panthers Pick & Prediction JANUARY 6th 2024

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Nathan MacKinnon was the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, is a seven-time All-Star and has won a Stanley Cup. He has done everything possible on the ice to help his team win, but he has never won a Hart Trophy as the league MVP.

That might change this year.

MacKinnon is having a career year, especially at home, where has at least one point in all 20 games. He will try to extend it to 21 games when the Colorado Avalanche host the Florida Panthers on Saturday in Denver.

MacKinnon is tied with Nikita Kucherov for the NHL scoring lead with 64 points and is on pace for 134 this season, but it has been the way he’s getting the points recently that puts him in the conversation nearly halfway through the season.

Not only is he on a torrid pace, his points are coming in big moments. He has scored in overtime in each of the last two games to complete Colorado rallies.

MacKinnon centers the top line that lately has included his boyhood friend Jonathan Drouin, who was the No. 3 overall pick in the same draft. Drouin joined MacKinnon this year and is finding his groove with the Avalanche. He has moved up to the top power-play unit, which is playing well during this recent stretch.

“We seem to know where everyone is and we seem to know what kind of plays we want to make that night,” Drouin said. “We have a clear mind of what we want to do, and we have Cale (Makar), Nate and Mikko (Rantanen) with Val (Nichushkin) in front of the net. It’s a power play that should be scoring every night or at least getting some momentum if we’re not scoring.”

Colorado may not have defenseman Bowen Byram available for Saturday’s game. He left the win over Dallas early in the third period with a lower-body injury.

The Avalanche have won four straight but face a Florida team that is on an even hotter streak. The Panthers have won six in a row, the last a 4-1 win in Vegas on Thursday night to exact a little revenge in a rematch of last season’s Stanley Cup Final.

Florida was able to pull it out despite losing two of its top-six forwards in the first period. Evan Rodrigues was injured blocking a shot with his leg and Aleksander Barkov took an unintentional elbow to the head from Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez.

Barkov’s and Rodrigues’ status for Saturday has not been announced.

The Panthers were already without forward Nick Cousins, who is in concussion protocol after being boarded by Arizona’s Jason Zucker on Tuesday night.

Sam Reinhart has helped overcome the losses with his play. He has seven goals during the six-game winning streak and was named to his first NHL All-Star Game on Thursday.

“I’m very happy for Sam. He’s going to have so much fun up there, especially with it being his first one,” teammate Matthew Tkachuk said. “I’m shocked that it’s his first one. Hopefully he has an unreal time. He’s so well deserving of it.”

–Field Level Media

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