Defending a title is tough, even if the reigning champions are loaded with talent.

The Colorado Avalanche are experiencing that four games into the new season. Even with exceptional skill players, Colorado has gotten off to an uneven start to this year. Coach Jared Bednar has shaken up his line combinations already and is still looking for the right mix.

It didn’t make a difference in Wednesday’s 4-3 home overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets, so the Avalanche will try it again Friday night when they host the Seattle Kraken.

Colorado has scored at least three goals in each game but hasn’t been able to find the right combinations on the four forward lines. Bednar used Martin Kaut on right wing on the second line Wednesday night and dropped Alex Newhook to the third line.

Bednar was pleased with Kaut’s play against Winnipeg, so chances are he’ll get another shot to play with Valeri Nichushkin and J.T. Compher, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he shuffled the lines during the game if things aren’t clicking.

The players don’t appear to be worried.

“Nobody is coming into the season perfect,” defenseman Cale Makar said. “Regardless of what the lines are, everybody’s working well in practice and stuff like that. It takes a couple games but that’s not an excuse. Obviously, we got to be able to produce every night.”

The Avalanche are without captain Gabriel Landeskog for the next 12 weeks after he underwent knee surgery this week, and now the status of Makar’s partner, Devon Toews, is unknown. Toews left Wednesday’s game with an undisclosed injury.

Seattle hits the road for two games after a disappointing stretch of home games. The Kraken went 0-2-1 in a three-game homestand, salvaging a point by rallying against St. Louis to send the game to overtime on Wednesday night.

After losing the first two games ahead of playing St. Louis, coach Dave Hakstol gave the team a day off.

“We’re in the middle of a challenging stretch here,” Hakstol said. “We’ve had really good success and felt great coming off the road trip. We’ve run into two good teams that have played really well, and they’ve exposed some areas that we’ve got to be better and some areas of consistency we’ve got to be better (in). No one’s running and hiding from anything.”

Colorado could face a former teammate Friday night. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer signed with the Kraken after the 2020-21 season to be their top goaltender, but so far this year he has been splitting net duties with Martin Jones.

The Avalanche will also see Andre Burakovsky, who helped them with the Stanley Cup in June. Burakovsky signed with Seattle as an unrestricted free agent, so he missed the banner raising and ring ceremony the team had at the start of the season.

Burakovsky will likely get his championship ring at some point during the Kraken’s stay. When the Avalanche played at Calgary on Saturday, Nathan MacKinnon presented the ring to Nazem Kadri, who was instrumental in winning the Cup.

–Field Level Media