MacKinnon will return for Avalanche against Oilers

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Nathan MacKinnon took part in a full practice with contact Saturday and the Colorado Avalanche center said he will play against the Edmonton Oilers at Pepsi Center on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; ALT, SNW, NHL.TV).

"A hundred percent, I feel good," said MacKinnon, who has missed eight games with an upper-body injury. "My trainers did a great job getting me ready, getting me healthy quickly, so I’m good."

MacKinnon, who has 61 points (24 goals, 37 assists) in 49 games, was injured Jan. 30 in a collision with Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler. MacKinnon was second in NHL scoring when he left the lineup; he was 16th entering the later games Saturday.

The Avalanche (31-22-4) went 4-4-0 without MacKinnon and are three points behind the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

"You get your best player back, it’s positive, no question" Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. "He drives our offense in a lot of ways, 5-on-5, power play. We need him back, but we can’t just rely on Nate. It’s not just going to magically turn around here in our favor just because he’s back in our lineup."

MacKinnon will return to his line with left wing Gabriel Landeskog and right wing Mikko Rantanen, who combined for one goal and seven assists in his absence.

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"l’ll try and do my job, play how I was playing when I was healthy," MacKinnon said. "Gabe and Mikko help me a lot and hopefully we can find some chemistry right away. We’ve been one of the best lines in the NHL all season, so we’re confident. Gabe and Mikko are special players and I’m excited to join them.

"I didn’t want to rush it too much, but at the same time I wanted to get back in the lineup and I wanted to help my teammates. This week has definitely been challenging. I’ve been skating very hard and I feel healthy and I’m excited to play now.

"I’ve been skating for two weeks. Six days after I got hurt I started skating, not with any pucks, but I was still bag skating every day. The past 13 days I skated 12 times. It’s nice to be with the team. [Friday] I was by myself and I figured there were 200 people watching me skate, a bag skate. That gets old."

Bednar said goalie Jonathan Bernier is going through concussion protocol after he was injured in a 6-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.

Andrew Hammond was recalled from Belleville of the American Hockey League and will back up Semyon Varlamov on Sunday.

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