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Return to Play: Three keys for the Avalanche to find success in 2020

Editor’s note: Each of the major professional sports in the United States have returned to play after being on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The “big four” will return to the field, court and ice.

As part of this process, Colorado teams will also return to play. The Rockies began their 2020 season on July 24. The Broncos started training camp on July 28. The Nuggets tipped off their eight-game end of the NBA regular season on Aug. 1. And the puck drops on the Avalanche’s three-game round robin on Aug. 2.

Prior to each team getting back to action, 1043TheFan.com will preview their chances of making the second half of 2020 memorable.

It continues today with a look at the Avalanche.

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The future is bright

Among the 24 teams heading into the restart of the NHL season, the Colorado Avalanche finds itself the eighth-youngest team with an average age of 26.7.

Where Colorado gains a greater advantage, however, is that the majority of its top points scorers are younger than the league average of 27.3 years old heading into the 2019-’20 season.

In fact, all but one of the Avs top-10 points scorers (Nazem Kadri, age 29) are 27 or younger — including team captain Gabriel Landeskog, MVP-candidate Nathan MacKinnon, rookie of the year finalist Cale Makar and all-star forward Mikko Rantanen.

Not to mention, goaltender Philipp Grubauer is only 28 years old.

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Return of the MacK

Just as the NHL season headed unexpectedly toward its pandemic pause in March, MacKinnon was slated to miss at least a week or two with a lower-body injury.

It had been a blow to a team on the verge of just becoming fully healthy — and a fully-healthy Avalanche squad can be quite dangerous.

Andre Burakovsky, Rantanen, Kadri and Matt Calvert had all skated in practice that week, albeit with non-contact jerseys.

Goalie Grubauer was also on the mend and preparing to return, as was rookie defenseman Makar.

Now, heading into the three-game round robin to determine the top four postseason seeds, the Avs will have each back on the ice in Edmonton.

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No seeing Stars

Had the Stanley Cup Playoffs started at the time the NHL pressed pause on the season in March, the Avalanche would have squared off in the first round against the Dallas Stars.

Despite being the second-best team in the Western Conference, Colorado stood two points behind the St. Louis Blues in the Central Division.

The Vegas Golden Knights round out the four top seeds for this iteration of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, meaning they will not play each other until the conference semifinals at the earliest.

Working to Colorado’s advantage, Dallas is the only Western Conference team remaining in the postseason who the Avs didn’t sport a .500 or better winning percentage against this season.