As Colorado Avalanche attempt to shed slow start, star center Nathan MacKinnon misses practice

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon missed practice on Tuesday with a lower-body injury, and his status for Thursday's game against the Vancouver Canucks is not known.

J.T. Compher jumped up to the first line at practice, taking the center position, flanked by Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, with MacKinnon out. The second line featured Valeri Nichushkin, Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky.

Though not MacKinnon, Compher is off to a solid start. In 10 games, he's posted a team-high five goals, including one on the power play.

While MacKinnon's point total -- he's tied for the team lead with 10 alongside Kadri and Landeskog -- is MacKinnon-like through the first month of the season, the star forward has just one goal in eight games and is skating with a minus-3 rating.

For a team that usually goes as MacKinnon goes, his start has shown in the standings. The Avalanche, easily among the favorites to win the Stanley Cup when the season began, are just 4-5-1 with nine points headed into their game vs. the Canucks.

After it looked like Colorado had its bearings and was ready to put together a run -- starting with back-to-back wins over the St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota Wild -- the Avalanche uncharacteristically lost two straight to the Columbus Blue Jackets, allowing nine goals in the process.

"Two things that have been ailing us to start, is our work in the defensive structure of the game, and the way we're managing the puck. And that one goes a little bit deeper," coach Jared Bednar said Monday. "Some of it is trying to do the right thing and didn't execute, and some of it is not firm-enough plays."

The good news on Tuesday, though, was on the back line. Defenseman Cale Makar, who suffered an upper-body injury on Oct. 30, returned to practice, joining his partner, Devon Toews, on Colorado's top pairing.