Avalanche will be without Nathan MacKinnon for 2-4 weeks

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This is not what the Colorado Avalanche needed right now.

Having already lost three games in a row and fallen out of the Western Conference playoff picture, the Avalanche will now be without their top player, Nathan MacKinnon, for the next two-to-four weeks due to an upper body injury.

It had already been determined that he was going to at least miss Thursday’s game in Edmonton, but that it was not going to be a long-term injury. After further evaluation that turned out to not be the case.

“It’s not a great feeling when you lose a guy like that because of what he means to our team,” said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar. “But I’m excited for the opportunity it presents other guys. We need other guys to step up.”

That last sentence would be quite the understatement, and that is going to be easier said than done because there really isn’t going to be an easy way to replace what MacKinnon has done for the Avalanche this season.

Entering play on Thursday MacKinnon is the NHL’s second leading scorer with 61 points and to this point has been one of the front-runners for the MVP award.

The Avalanche currently sit in 10th place in the Western Conference standings, but are only one point out of a playoff spot.

After finishing the 2016-17 season with the NHL’s worst record the Avalanche have been one of the surprise teams in the league this season, and MacKinnon’s breakout year is a big part of that turnaround. Even if he only misses two weeks that is still going to be seven games between now and Feb. 14. This could be a make-or-break stretch for the Avalanche and their playoff chances.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.