Matt Duchene will miss four weeks with a knee injury, as reported by the Colorado Avalanche today and confirmed by several media sources.
This is a very unfortunate break for a Colorado Avalanche team that has just clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in four years. They will go into the playoffs now missing their leading point scorer on the season (70 points in 71 games).
The injury occurred during the Avs last game on Saturday against the San Jose Sharks. On his first shift of the game, Duchene was skating out of the offensive zone after the puck and collided with teammate Jamie McGinn just inside the blue line. As soon as Duchene stood up, he gingerly skated to the bench, clearly in pain. He sat on the bench through the Avs first goal of the game which came less than a minute later, but never came back to the game.
Since the game, there has been a lot of speculation as far as how long Duchene will miss, but the information came out today that the timeframe for his return is set for about four weeks.
How much will this hurt the Avalanche down the stretch and in their playoff run? It isn’t the crippling blow, but it is the next worst thing that could have happened. The critical blow to this team would be if Semyon Varlamov would go down with an injury, as he has clearly been the MVP of this team so far.
The rest of the Avs season will be determined by how other players on the roster step up to fill the void left by Duchene. They have some depth, and should hopefully get PA Parenteau back in the lineup at some point.
Duchene has been centering a line of late that has featured Ryan O’Reilly on his left side and rookie sensation Nathan MacKinnon to his right. This line has not quite been on fire as much as the Paul Stastny line with Jamie McGinn and Gabe Landeskog, but it has been very important to this team.
After Duchene left the game Saturday, John Mitchell stepped into Duchene’s place between MacKinnon and O’Reilly. Mitchell was making his first appearance on the ice since he suffered an injury in a game against Montreal a couple weeks ago. He jumped right into Duchene’s spot and scored a goal to help the Avs get the victory.
It is possible that they leave Mitchell in that spot, but I believe that it is more likely that MacKinnon will slide to the center position, his natural position, with O’Reilly and McGinn as his line mates. This would mean there would be an opening on the Stastny line. That is where I believe Mitchell will wind up, at least until Parenteau is healthy.
All in all, this team does have the potential to overcome this injury, although it will not be easy. Losing Matt Duchene, a point-per-game producer this season, will be hard, and there will be changes to the lineup to compensate for that, but the Avs have proven all season long that they just won’t quit and continue to exceed all expectations. This is just one more challenge for the team that has dubbed the saying “Why Not Us?” this season.