Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon practices, set to return for Game 1

DENVER -- Nathan MacKinnon returned to the ice for practice Saturday, and all signs point to him being back in the lineup for Game 1 of a first-round series against the St. Louis Blues.

The difficult-to-contain Colorado Avalanche forward missed four of the final five games of the regular season with a lower-body injury. But coach Jared Bednar said he expects MacKinnon and forward Brandon Saad to be ready to go Monday night for the start of their best-of-seven series at Ball Arena. The top-seeded Avalanche went 5-3 against the Blues this season.

"He's such a big part of our hockey team, especially driving our offense," Bednar said of MacKinnon. "To have him in for the start of the series would be what the doctored ordered."

MacKinnon finished second on the team with 65 points (20 goals, 45 assists), a point behind fellow linemate Mikko Rantanen (30, 36).

Along the way, MacKinnon set a career high with a 15-game point streak from March 27 to April 28. It's the third-longest streak by an Avalanche player since the team relocated to Denver before the 1995-96 season.

"He's one of our stars and a guy that really looks forward to this time of year," said Bednar, whose team captured the top spot in the West Division and the Presidents' Trophy for the top regular-season record. "We saw what he could in the playoffs last year."

In 2020, MacKinnon went on a 14-game point streak to begin the playoffs. It tied Mark Messier (1988) and Bobby Orr (1970) for the second-longest streak to begin a postseason in NHL history, according to the Avalanche. The longest was recorded by Bryan Trottier, who went on an 18-game point streak to open the 1981 postseason.

Saad has missed the past 11 games with a lower-body injury. He had 15 goals and nine assists in the regular season after being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in October. Saad captured two Stanley Cup titles (2012-13, '14-15) with the Blackhawks.

Another possible return to the lineup for Colorado could be defenseman Conor Timmins, Bednar said.

The Avalanche remain without banged-up rookie defenseman Bowen Byram, who hasn't played since March 25. Byram did skate Saturday.

"He's getting better every day," Bednar said. "The next thing for him will be getting in skates like this with a lot of guys and taking contact. We'll see where he gets to.

"He's missed a significant amount of time for us now. We're trying to get him back up to speed. ... Hopefully he's an option for us at some point."