Erik Johnson, Mike Brown

Colorado’s defense could lead to an avalanche of goals against

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One thing the Avalanche weren’t very good at last season was preventing opponents from scoring goals. They were 27th in goals allowed which was a leading reason why they wound up in the NHL Draft lottery and picking first overall.

A big part of the blame for that fell on their defensemen. Bad news Avs fans: Not much has changed back there.

The two subtractions from last year’s team were Shane O’Brien and Greg Zanon. The latter was brought in to be a defensive stopper and failed to do much stopping at all. Meanwhile, O’Brien struggled to get into the lineup most of the season.

The only addition made to this year’s team was Cory Sarich who came over in a four-player swap with Calgary and he played rough third-pairing minutes on an equally defensively inept Flames team. He also wasn’t very good.

There are a couple of young guys who offer hope and will get thrown into the fire more this season.

Tyson Barrie is just 21-years-old but he led the team in average time on ice over his 32 games (21:35). Incredibly, he also led all defensemen in points with 13. His advanced numbers were strong which means he could (should?) see more responsibility on the blue line.

Likewise, Stefan Elliott, 22,  should get more time this season. In 18 games last season he had a goal and three assists and, like Barrie, put up respectable advanced numbers. The play of those two made it acceptable to part ways with Zanon and O’Brien.

The rest of the group with Hunwick, Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda, Ryan Wilson, and Andre Benoit all offer complementary parts but not an overly dominating game.

Johnson should be the best of the bunch but has never taken the reins as a true No. 1 defenseman. Hejda is their “defensive stopper” and Wilson has a steady all-around game. Benoit and Hunwick could wind up fighting for the sixth spot with Sarich.

Long story short, it’s a flawed bunch with a pair of hopeful youngsters and a third, Duncan Siemens, waiting down the road. Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere had better be ready for another busy season in goal.

After missing two games because of an illness, Panarin will return to ‘Hawks lineup

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (72) celebrates after scoring an empty-net goal on an assist from Patrick Kane against the Winnipeg Jets during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, in Chicago. The Blackhawks won 3-1. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
Associated Press
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CHICAGO (AP) Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin is expected to play Saturday night against Anaheim after missing two games with an illness.

Panarin participated in Chicago’s optional morning skate, and coach Joel Quenneville says the rookie will be in the lineup against the Ducks.

The 24-year-old Panarin, who has played on Chicago’s second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane for most of the season, is second on the team with 34 assists and 52 points. The Blackhawks dropped both games while he was out.

Rangers get good news on McDonagh, bad news on Nash

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Some good news/bad news for the Rangers.

Exactly one week after suffering a concussion against the Philadelphia Flyers, defenseman Ryan McDonagh returned to the ice with his teammates this morning.

The Rangers captain was wearing a non-contract jersey, but “looked good” according to coach Alain Vigneault.

McDonagh was hurt after taking a punch to the head from Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds (above).

The 26-year-old has missed each of his team’s last three games since suffering the injury.

McDonagh hasn’t been cleared for contact, but that could happen in the next few days according to Vigneault.

The news wasn’t as good for forward Rick Nash, who’s been dealing with a bone bruise in his leg.

Nash has missed each of New York last eight game’s and Vigneault admitted that he’s no longer considered day-to-day.

He’ll miss at least another week.

Video: Blandisi scores great between-the-legs goal vs. Flyers

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What a story Joseph Blandisi‘s been for the New Jersey Devils this season.

The 21-year-old played in his first NHL game on Dec. 11 and has stayed with the Devils ever since.

It took him five games to pick up his first career point, but he’s done a whole lot more damage since then.

Blandisi came into Saturday’s action with 10 points in his last 12 games and he added to that against the Flyers.

He opened the scoring with this beautiful between-the-legs goal on goalie Michal Neuvirth (top of the page).

That’s Blandisi’s fourth goal of the season.

Some Twitter reaction to the goal:

Bruins’ Bergeron ruled out for Saturday’s game against Wild

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The Boston Bruins will be without center Patrice Bergeron in Saturday afternoon’s matinee against the Minnesota Wild.

It’s unclear how Bergeron suffered the undisclosed injury, but there’s reason to believe it occurred after he dropped the gloves with Jets forward Blake Wheeler (above).

He’s considered day-to-day at this point.

Losing him for an extended period of time would be devastating for Boston.

“You don’t like seeing your star players (fight), but you also understand that it’s an emotional game and that stuff happens and at one point a player says, ‘Enough is enough and I’m going to stand up for myself,’” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said after the game, as per the Boston Herald.

“From what I gathered there was a lot of slashes behind the legs behind the play and stuff like that. He took things upon himself. As much as you don’t like it, you can’t tell him he’s not allowed. He’s a big boy and he can certainly make some decisions on the ice. And it’s not the first time that he’s fought. But I like the fact that he doesn’t fight much.”

After this incident, there’s no doubt that the Bruins will tell Bergeron to keep his gloves on from now on.