Avs to ‘punish’ defenseman… by playing him at forward


Looks like Patrick Roy has dug deep into the motivational handbook:

Holden, 27, was one of the biggest surprises in Colorado last year, making the team out of training camp before appearing in a career-high 52 games, scoring 10 goals and 25 points (Holden also had three goals and four points in seven playoff games.)

But this year… yikes. Just one goal through 25 contests with a team-worst minus-16 rating (41.2 percent Corsi For.)

As the above tweets suggest, Colorado is all sorts of banged up right now. Forwards Dennis Everberg, Jamie McGinn and Jesse Winchester are all on IR, as too are blueliners Brad Stuart and Ryan Wilson. That’s led to some major ice time for certain guys, like Tyson Barrie — he played a season-high 24:59 in Monday’s 4-3 loss to Montreal — and Alex Tanguay, who played 21:28 against the Habs, way above his season average of 17:29.

As mentioned above, the Avs are Calgary on Thursday for a date with the streaking Flames. After that, Colorado will become well acquainted with the Jets and Blues — from Dec. 5-23, the Avs play the Jets twice and the Blues three times (in the span of 10 total games).

Varlamov’s return pushed back, McGinn’s season might be done


Avalanche coach Patrick Roy will get to see goaltender Calvin Pickard at least one more time before netminder Semyon Varlamov’s (groin) return pushes the team to make a change.

Although Roy initially expected Varlamov to be available on Monday, per the Denver Post’s Adrian Dater, the bench boss has decided to err on the side of caution by delaying their starting goaltender’s return until Thursday. Pickard will start again on Monday, according to Mike Chambers.

Roy has previously stated that he intends to keep Pickard on the roster once Varlamov is healthy enough to play and he doesn’t want to carry three goaltenders. Unless something changes soon, the stage seems to be set for Reto Berra to be put on waivers.

Although the Avalanche are likely to get Varlamov back soon, the news is far grimmer for Jamie McGinn. The 26-year-old forward hasn’t played in roughly two weeks and might undergo season-ending back surgery. Patrick Bordeleau had back surgery over the offseason and won’t be able to make his season debut for weeks.

In light of Colorado’s injury problems, they’ve summoned 21-year-old forward Colin Smith and 22-year-old forward Mike Sgarbossa. Smith is looking to make his NHL debut while Sgarbossa has six NHL contests under his belt.

Colorado will face Montreal next.

An Avalanche of injury woes in Colorado


It’s not getting any easier for the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche continue to occupy last place in the Central Division, a sign of the regression many who believe in advanced statistics thought was going to happen. Now, Colorado is dealing with a rash of injuries, forcing them to recall three players – Andrew Agozzino, Ben Street and Tomas Vincour – from Lake Erie in the American Hockey League.

According to the Avalanche, there are eight players now out of the lineup due to injuries. You might say this dilemma is starting to snowball.

Alex Tanguay was the latest casualty. He took an Alex Ovechkin shot to the face and suffered a facial fracture as a result.

“He texted me last night after the game and said that he will try and come back as soon as possible,” head coach Patrick Roy said Friday, as per the club’s website. “Knowing Tang, I know he has the success of the team at heart. He knows that he is an important player, and he will do whatever he can to come back as soon as possible.”

That’s a tough loss for the Avalanche right there. The 35-year-old Tanguay – and this might be a sign of the times and struggles in Colorado right now – leads the Avalanche in goals with seven.

Perhaps the good news is goalie Semyon Varlamov is only listed as day-to-day with a groin injury, suffered earlier this week. Although, because it’s a groin injury, the good news still comes with caution.

It’s not so promising beyond that.

Rookie forward Dennis Everberg (shoulder) is also out. Roy didn’t have any specific timeline for him, other than he’s out for “awhile,” according to the club.

Defenseman Ryan Wilson (shoulder surgery) is out for the season. The club has listed Patrick Bordeleau (back), Brad Stuart (hamstring) and Jesse Winchester (head) as out indefinitely, and forward Jamie McGinn (back) was still being evaluated.

Roy preaches patience, bumps MacKinnon to Avs’ third line


There are a lot of words that come to mind when you think about Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy. “Patient” probably isn’t high on that list.

Still, the beleaguered head coach took that approach on Thursday morning, telling the Denver Post’s Adrian Dater that “it’s a process.”

Sometimes that process involves tweaking line combinations, and in this latest instance, the most interesting change drops Nathan MacKinnon out of Colorado’s top two trios. Dater reports that John Mitchell will take MacKinnon’s spot between Gabriel Landeskog and Jarome Iginla while Alex Tanguay will play right wing with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. MacKinnon, meanwhile, will center a line with Jamie McGinn and Daniel Briere (replacing Dennis Everberg in the lineup).

Increasing depth?

On face value, moving the rising 19-year-old off the top two lines seems like a clear case of lost patience, but there are some reasons to defend the decision.

For one thing, MacKinnon’s offense dried up recently; the sophomore only has an assist in four games after a mini-burst in which he collected six points in three games from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2.

Beyond that, when you look at Colorado’s top three combinations under this amalgamation, it could conceivably be a varied attack. Much of that would depend upon Mitchell playing at the level of a second-line center, though, of course.

Sending a message

Lines change a lot in the modern NHL, so maybe this sends a message more than anything else.

While Roy’s patience seems like a breath of fresh air, his ultimate pleading remains the same: work harder.

“We’ve got to realize that it doesn’t have to be a perfect goal to count,” Roy said. “It can go off your butt, or your leg or your arm. Maybe if we can get a couple of ugly ones, it will loosen everything up.”

“But you have to work hard at going to the net to make those kinds of goals happen.”

We’ll see if the Avalanche can start turning things around tonight, as they face the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Avalanche rush to goalless MacKinnon’s defense


The Colorado Avalanche’s problems don’t start and end with reigning Calder Trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon, but on a team that has averaged just 2.22 goals per contest, his nine-game goal scoring drought has stood out. Especially seeing as it fans the fears that MacKinnon might be the latest player to experience a sophomore slump.

“I think that’s a bunch of crap,” Matt Duchene told the Denver Post. “If he just keeps skating and working hard, he’s going to get one fluky goal and it is going to take off from there.”

Plus it’s worth noting that MacKinnon only had one goal in his first 12 games last season and still ended up with 24 markers. Of course the circumstances were different back then. MacKinnon was getting used to playing in the NHL and was being eased into the lineup. He averaged just 13:33 minutes per game in October 2013.

Additionally, the Avalanche were off to a great start, so whether or not MacKinnon was finding the back of the net wasn’t a primary concern. All the same, his teammates don’t think that MacKinnon is someone they need to worry about now.

“When you watch him out there, he is working hard and he is hunting pucks and he is still getting us points,” Jamie McGinn said. “He hasn’t scored, but he is doing all the little things right for this team. That’s what we need out of him right now. He’s such a great talent that when he gets one, they’re all going to come.”

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy also believes that it’s just a matter of time before MacKinnon ends his goal scoring slump.

In the meantime, MacKinnon has four assists and a minus-six rating in nine games this season.


Jets power past slumping Avs in OT