Matt Duchene

Matt Duchene is improving, still not ready to play

Matt Duchene’s comeback from a knee injury is going carefully and while there’s not been much progress reported on how he’s doing, things are getting better.

Mike Chambers of The Denver Post reports that while Duchene isn’t joining the Avalanche on their trip to St. Louis to play the Blues tonight, he might be traveling with the team on their three-game road trip to Canada next week.

Duchene has been out of action for the Avs since December 29. Through 39 games, Duchene has 12 goals and 12 assists as he was having his struggles in Denver this season. With the Avalanche being in the midst of a playoff race in the West, they could certainly use Duchene back in the lineup to help spur the offense.

For now, Ryan O’Reilly and Paul Stastny are carrying the load with help from Gabriel Landeskog and Milan Hejduk. Duchene’s eventual return will give Colorado a more well-rounded top six.

Habs claim Byron off waivers from Flames

Paul Byron
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Montreal added some forward depth on Tuesday, acquiring diminutive forward Paul Byron off waivers from Calgary.

Byron, 26, is a veteran of nearly 150 career NHL games, most coming with the Flames. Despite fairly solid production over the last two years — 40 points in 104 games — he was exposed to waivers on Monday, along with fellow forward Mason Raymond.

(Calgary does have a logjam of players at forward, hence parting ways with Byron and Raymond.)

Byron can play both wing and center but, at 5-foot-7, 153 pounds, is one of the most undersized skaters in the league. Thankfully for him, Montreal has an affinity for undersized forwards, with the likes of Brendan Gallagher (5-foot-9, 184 pounds) and David Desharnais (5-foot-7, 174 pounds) already on the active roster.

Byron could also fill Zack Kassian‘s roster spot. Kassian is currently suspended without pay while undergoing Stage 2 of the NHL’s Substance Abuse program.

Isles claim goalie Berube off waivers

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jaroslav Halak
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The New York Islanders have claimed goalie Jean-Francois Berube off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings, the club announced today.

Berube won the Calder Cup last season with AHL Manchester, but the 24-year-old has yet to appear in an NHL game.

That the Isles claimed Berube could be evidence that Jaroslav Halak will not be ready to start the season after all.

If that’s the case, Berube would back up Thomas Greiss, with Stephon Williams expected to go to the AHL.

The Isles open their regular season Friday at home versus the Blackhawks, then play the next day in Chicago.