DENVER - Nathan MacKinnon will captain the Central Division team during the 2022 NHL All-Star Game on Feb. 5 in Las Vegas. He’ll be joined by Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar.
Colorado’s Nazem Kadri, who sat fourth in NHL scoring (13 goals, 35 assists, 30 games) when teams were announced, was not one of the 10 Central Division players listed. He is, however, available for the Last Men In campaign, which puts the final pick for each team to a fan vote.
This is Makar’s first All-Star nod. It’s MacKinnon’s fifth consecutive selection. He was named captain in 2018-19 and 2019-20 and pulled out of the 2019 event with a bruised foot.
Makar, 23, is the first Avalanche defenseman to be named to the event since Erik Johnson in 2014-15. Johnson did not participate due to a lower-body injury.
It was previously announced that Colorado coach Jared Bednar would serve as the Central Division’s head coach. He’s the first in Avalanche history to serve as a head coach at the NHL All-Star Game. Bob Hartley (2000-01) and Marc Crawford (1995-96) went as assistants.
The coaches of the teams with the highest points percentages in each of the four divisions through Monday were selected.
“It’s a reflection of the hard work the team has put in,” Bednar said Thursday.
“I’m excited to go. It’ll be a good experience.”
The All-Star Game will be a three-game tournament, played in a 3-on-3 format.
The Minnesota Wild were the only other Central Division team with two inclusions – forward Kirill Kaprizov and goaltender Cam Talbot.
Bednar acknowledged the format wouldn’t allow for many more Avalanche selections, deserving as they may be.
"You've got to have representation from all teams,” Bednar said.
“Unfortunately, even though I feel like we should have four, five, six guys going, I don’t think that’s going to happen. But I think there definitely should be the conversation.”
No timeline for Byram
Rookie defenseman Bowen Byram, 20, missed the Avalanche’s most recent game Tuesday. He left the team for “personal reasons.”
The Athletic reported Byram is “dealing with lingering issues likely stemming from his past concussion problems.” He didn’t feel as though he could play in Nashville.
Bednar said Thursday that Byram remained on “personal leave” and there’s no timeline for his return.
PK a work in progress
Special teams drills took up a large portion of practice Thursday at Family Sports Center. Kadri was summoned from the other end of the ice to take faceoffs during penalty-kill work. He logged 2:22 of shorthanded time Tuesday.
“He can help us win some faceoffs, especially on his strong side,” Bednar said. “He’s an experienced guy. The penalty kill’s been struggling. If certain guys aren’t getting the job done, we have to distribute that ice time to other players.
“I’m leery of getting our top guys out there more, but you’ve got to do what you have to do to have success.”
Bednar said frequent penalty killer Darren Helm, who missed the Predators game with a lower-body injury, was still “dinged up” but “making some progress” ahead of a home-and-home Friday and Saturday with the Arizona Coyotes.
Last thoughts on too many men
The day before a return to game action, Bednar and forward Andre Burakovsky had some parting words for a too-many-men penalty in overtime Tuesday. On the ensuing 4-on-3 power play, Central Division-leading Nashville scored to take the extra standings point.
“I think we got robbed there a little bit from the refs,” forward Andre Burakovsky said. “I don’t know what he was doing in a situation like that, in overtime in such a big game.”
The coach didn’t budge on his position.
“Sixty to 70 percent of the changes made in that game, or any game, are that bad or worse,” Bednar said.