Surging Avalanche confident they can repeat as Stanley Cup champions
Having entered the All-Star break on a hot streak, the Colorado Avalanche feel they're rounding into form in time for another Stanley Cup run.
"I think we can win it again," said Nathan MacKinnon, per NHL.com's Tracey Myers.
After cruising to the Central Division title last season and posting a dominant 16-4 playoff record, the Avalanche have struggled to find the same consistency this campaign. Gabriel Landeskog, Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon, Valeri Nichushkin, and Josh Manson have all missed significant time in 2022-23, but Colorado's recent surge has vaulted it into the second wild-card spot.
Colorado did get some good news on the injury front Sunday, though. Young defenseman Bo Byram will return to the lineup Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins after missing 38 games. Nichushkin will also be back for that matchup after re-injuring his surgically repaired ankle and sitting out the last two.
When the Avalanche are back at full strength, MacKinnon believes they'll be difficult to stop.
"I'll use it as an excuse, I guess, but when guys are hurt, it's like they were traded away for nothing, so we could use those guys back," MacKinnon said.
While the Avalanche are comfortable where they're at, they know winning another title will be more difficult than the last.
"There are a lot of good teams and a lot of hungry teams to win, and we know it's not easy," Mikko Rantanen said. "There aren't many teams that won back-to-back (championships). It's probably harder than it was last year, but we're ready for the task, and we still have a good team."
The Tampa Bay Lightning repeated as Stanley Cup champions in 2020 and 2021 before the Avalanche dethroned them last June. Before the Bolts did it, only two teams had gone back-to-back since 1997.
Colorado returns from its break Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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