Matt Duchene, who leads the Avalanche with 70 points, won't return until the playoffs. (Michael Martin/Getty Images)
By Allan Muir
Despite a solid 3-2 win over the Sharks, the Avalanche took a couple of lumps on Saturday night. Center Ryan O'Reilly lost his bid to make it through the entire season penalty-free when he was called for, of all things, playing with a broken stick. (Come on, stripes, it was a bogus call and you know it.) And first-line center Matt Duchene skated all of one shift before he collided with teammate Jamie McGinn and was forced him to leave the game.
As it turns out, the Duchene incident will have an impact going forward.
Colorado announced at practice on Monday morning that Duchene, the club's leading scorer, will miss approximately four weeks with a knee injury. With the playoffs two weeks away and a postseason date with the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks all but booked, it's not exactly the most fortuitous timing.
There's no replacing the speed, creativity and finishing touch that Dutch brings to the Avs' lineup, but coach Patrick Roy does have options. John Mitchell skated in Duchene's spot for the remainder of the San Jose game. Mitchell can bring plenty of steak, but very little sizzle, to the role. Still, his veteran presence might be the safest bet, especially compared to moving Nathan MacKinnon back to his natural position at center. That's a lot to put on an 18-year-old rookie -- especially one who has scored just one goal in his past 16 games. Still, MacKinnon's skill set would maximize the impact of wingers McGinn and O'Reilly, and taking the risk seems more in line with how Roy has played his cards so far this season.
Colorado will play a desperate Blue Jackets team in Columbus on Tuesday. We'll know then how Roy plans to handle this.
Moments after the announcement, Duchene tweeted out some thoughts to his fans: