Erik Johnson

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Zac Rinaldo is about to be handed another multi-game suspension

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At some point later this week it will be time to reset your “Days Since Zac Rinaldo’s Been Suspended” boards after the Arizona Coyotes forward was offered an in-person hearing for his actions during Saturday night’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

Midway through the second period, Rinaldo laid a hit on Nathan MacKinnon in the neutral zone, which left the Avs forward stunned. Defenseman Samuel Girard responded by confronting Rinaldo, who then proceeded to drop the unsuspecting rookie with a punch. It was chaos after that.

“[Girard] is not going over there to try and fight him. He’s just going over there to give him a bump and he suckered him. I’m sure that’s something the league will look at,” said Avs defenseman Erik Johnson via Arizona Sports.

The Department of Player Safety did take a look at it and is ready to hand Rinaldo another multi-game ban. No longer considered a repeat offender, he’s been suspended four times since his rookie season of 2011-12 for a total of 19 games. He was even talented enough in 2016 earn a five-game suspension in the AHL days after being suspended for five games in the NHL.

The league is no fan of sucker punches, and considering the history of the player handing out said sucker punch and the offer of an in-person hearing, Rinaldo could be looking at a suspension close to at least half a dozen games, if not more.

UPDATE:

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Erik Johnson to sit two games for Avalanche after suspension

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It was pretty clear that after receving a slashing minor, boarding major and game misconduct all in the span of about three seconds, Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche still had some punishment coming to him.

And so on Sunday night the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced a two-game ban for the veteran defenseman after he boarded Vladislav Namestnikov Saturday night in Colorado.

As detailed in the video, Johnson knows that Namestnikov has already fired his shot on goal and the Tampa Bay Lightning forward isn’t expecting to be shoved like that after his scoring attempt. That, and how far he was from the boards make it all especially dangerous. Fortunately, Namestnikov was able to remain in the game.

“Dangerous play. You just hold your breath on those. Got a little fortunate with Vladdy, obviously didn’t get as fortunate with Callahan,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, referring to Ryan Callahan‘s injury after an awkward collision with Oliver Ekman-Larsson last week.

Johnson will lose out on $64,516.12, which goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Colorado Avalanche ’15-16 Outlook

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The Colorado Avalanche can be a tough nut to crack.

If you bounce around “Hockey Twitter” at all, the team very much stands as a guinea pig in the “stats vs. tradition” debate (or whatever you’d like to call it). That debate often gets a little weird and then overshadows the team itself.

When you look at the Avalanche, it’s an odd mix of old and new.

You have old ideas and old faces in management with Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic running the ship. They seemingly lean toward signing old veterans from Jarome Iginla to Francois Beauchemin.

The fresh faces make this squad awfully interesting, however. Gabriel Landeskog is still one of the NHL’s youngest captains at 22. With all the pressure on Nathan MacKinnon to make the next step, one might forget that he’s just 19. Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie remain in the meat of their primes at 24.

What if all four of those promising young players make significant strides that often come at such ages, particularly MacKinnon, who may just be scratching the surface of his skill set as people move onto to the next big thing in Connor McDavid? Could the Avalanche see earlier-than-expected results from still-blooming prospects like Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko?

Ryan O’Reilly is a tough player to let go – and he’s also just 24 – but when you look at that group, it’s quite a bit easier to stomach, isn’t it?

Yes, that defense looks pretty shaky beyond a handful of solid players such as Barrie and Erik Johnson, meaning the Avalanche will again lean heavily on Semyon Varlamov.

Still, with the abundance of talent at the forward position in particular, even the most ardent number-crunchers would shudder to dismiss the Avalanche outright.

Avs without Erik Johnson for up to eight weeks

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Erik Johnson was a late omission from the All-Star Game because of what was initially described as a lower-body injury. The Colorado Avalanche revealed more about his condition on Monday and the news wasn’t good.

The 26-year-old defenseman needed to have his knee scoped and will miss the next three-to-eight weeks as a result. This comes at a time when Colorado is just three points shy of the second Wild Card spot.

Filling the void left by Johnson will be a substantial challenge for the Avalanche. He’s by far their leader in playing time, averaging 24:25 minutes per contest and he’s recorded 23 points, 93 hits, and a team-leading 107 blocks in 47 games.

On top of all that, the team tends to play significantly better from a Corsi/Fenwick perspective when he’s on the ice, which is important to note given that Colorado continues to struggle in that regard. The Avalanche have a 44.1% Corsi For and 44.3% Fenwick For respectively, per the War on Ice.

Colorado will resume the regular season with back-to-back games against Nashville on Tuesday and Friday.

Update: Aaron Ekblad’s in the All-Star Game, Johnny Gaudreau doesn’t get bumped up

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Update: Contrary to an earlier report, it appears that Aaron Ekblad will appear in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game while Johnny Gaudreau will be limited to the skills competition. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston clarified as much.

Ekblad takes Erik Johnson’s spot among All-Star defensemen while Sidney Crosby’s slot will simply remain empty (rather than being filled by Gaudreau as originally expected).

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Before you split hairs about the likes of P.K. Subban not getting the call, note that some players probably didn’t want it at this point. As Johnston points out, a lot of players are already on vacation, so the league is making a logical decision in using players who are already planning on being there anyway.

Ekblad, 18, is tied for second on the Florida Panthers in scoring with 25 points and is averaging 22:04 time on ice per night. Gaudreau, 21, is third on the Calgary Flames with 35 points, almost defying the nickname “Johnny Hockey” in that he’s enjoyed about the opposite first campaign of his Cleveland Browns counterpart.

Even though Gaudreau isn’t getting the nod after all, it wouldn’t be surprising to see both as All-Star fixtures going forward.