Shane O’Brien among Avs’ healthy scratches

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The Colorado Avalanche handed Shane O’Brien a three-year, $6 million contract in June, but he’ll begin this season in street clothes.

Head coach Joe Sacco named O’Brien as one of the team’s healthy scratches on Saturday, according to Adrian Dater of the Denver Post. Dater expected Greg Zanon and Tyson Barrie to be the blueline scratches, but instead he thinks Matt Hunwick will be benched alongside O’Brien.

Sacco’s explanation for the move was sharp and simple: he’s going with the lineup that gives Colorado the “best chance to win.”

The hard-hitting defenseman scored 20 points with Colorado in 2010-11, the second-best output of his NHL career. His average of 19:13 minutes per game was also the second most he’s managed in a season.

Those numbers – and that whole $2 million per year thing – make it surprising that O’Brien is on the bench. We’ll see if this becomes a regular thing or just a bit of opening night message-sending for the Avs.