Colorade Avalanche face an injury crisis to test depth
The Colorado Avalanche have been dealt some tough blows with injuries over the past couple of seasons.
Perhaps none more so than in the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the summer, playing Dallas without their top two netminders and numerous other players, and still taking them to seven games.
Now we have a new season, and a fresh start, but the same old injury worries for this club.
MacKinnon the Biggest Worry for the Avs
The Avs are currently without one netminder, two defenseman and three forwards, giving them six pieces of the puzzle missing.
The biggest of those is without a doubt Nathan MacKinnon. The star centerman was not seen in the final period of the game on Sunday night against the Minnesota Wild, described as having a lower body injury, but nothing else was said.
Monday is a day off for the Avs, so look out for further MacKinnon news on Tuesday.
Fourth Line Torn Apart by Injuries
The other two injured forwards are Matt Calvert and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, which is 66% of the Avs’ fourth line, a line that has been very effective so far this season. On top of this, these two are two of the best penalty killers on the team.
Calvert is dealing with concussion issues while Bellemare was hit in the knee last week. It would be no surprise at all to see these two out of the line up for a while.
Lack of Experience on the Blue Line
Onto defense, and the Avs are missing their two most experienced defenseman in Erik Johnson and Devon Toews. As far as ability and place on the team goes, Toews is certainly the bigger miss, and has not been seen since blocking a shot in the series against San Jose last week.
Since arriving in Colorado, Toews has settled on the top pairing with Cale Makar, played time on the second powerplay unit and kills penalties, so has quickly become an integral part of the team.
Erik Johnson is the second defenseman injured, he is currently dealing with concussion problems after hitting the ice hard following a hit in game one of the recent Minnesota back to back.
Johnson has had his fair share of injury problems over the years, so this won’t be a huge surprise to the team. However, with Ian Cole departing, he is the one big, experienced body on the back end, and the Avs will hope to have him back soon.
Netminding Concerns with Francouz Out
The final player to mention is backup netminder Pavel Francouz. He has been side lined and is yet to play this season, meaning that third choice Hunter Miska has seen action.
He’s lost both starts so far, where Francouz would have played, and conceded seven in the process. While the opening game was fine, he was disappointing in Minnesota on Sunday night, especially on the game-winning-goal.
There was a lot of talk about the Avs signing a third goalie off waivers for the taxi squad prior to the season starting. They chose to stick with what they had, a decision that may hurt them even more in the future depending on the status of Francouz.
Is There Any Positive News?
The injuries to MacKinnon, Toews and Johnson overshadow anything else that is going on in Colorado right now. However, if Avs fans want something to try and ease the pain right now it is the play of depth guys, who have been taking the fourth line forward.
Logan O’Connor was brought up from the Colorado Eagles, scored on debut and has slotted straight in on the fourth unit, covering for Bellemare. He even scored on his first start of the season, which will only help his confidence grow further.
Kiefer Sherwood was the replacement for Matt Calvert and he too has enabled the fourth line for the Avs to keep rolling. Tyson Jost has been playing all season, he started at wing but is now playing center in place of Bellemare, and that switch, plus the change in line mates, has seen no change in his play.
The fourth line was very impressive at the start of the season, and since the changes have been made, nothing about the effort and commitment of this line has changed. The depth guys have done an excellent job at stepping in.
Further up the roster, of course, there will be issues, but to end on a positive, even with two injuries, the Avs fourth line has been rolling.