The Colorado Avalanche has turned in a remarkable season so far, considering it is clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference even though the Avs have suffered the third most injuries in the NHL.
Key players like Milan Hejduk, Chris Stewart, T.J. Galiardi, Kyle Cumiskey, Adam Foote, Kyle Quincey and goalie Craig Anderson have missed at least five games with ailments. Forward Peter Mueller has yet to play a single shift because of a concussion he suffered in preseason action.
The latest to go down was forward Ryan O'Reilly, when he crashed heavily into the boards on Friday. He is expected to be absent from the Avalanche for two to three weeks.
Injuries have forced Colorado general manager Greg Sherman to make some trades. He has added Tomas Fleischmann, Ryan O'Byrne and Matt Hunwick in separate deals with the Washington Capitals, Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins, respectively.
But the depth of the organization also has helped the cause.
Rookie defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk has stepped in and provided steady play in both ends of the rink. Kevin Porter, Brandon Yip and David Jones have stepped up offensively in their first full NHL seasons. Philippe Dupuis has provided grit. Matt Duchene certainly hasn't suffered any sort of sophomore jinx.
Injuries are nothing new for Colorado. Last year, the Avalanche concluded its season with the second most man-games lost to injury at 352 and used 30 different skaters. In total, the Avalanche has used 29 skaters to get by this season.
Here is glance at the most injury-plagued teams this season as well as the six Canadian teams.
1. N.Y. Islanders - 265
2. New Jersey - 248
3. Colorado - 227
4. Minnesota - 214
5. Calgary - 207
6. St. Louis - 153
7. Nashville - 150
8. Vancouver - 131
9. Anaheim - 128
10. Detroit - 126
19. Toronto - 97
20. Edmonton - 90
26. Ottawa - 58
27. Montreal - 56
A season ago, San Jose Sharks linemates Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley were both among the top-15 in the scoring race at eighth and 15th respectively. Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were three-four, respectively.
The two pairs have struggled this season. Thornton and Heatley are tied for 17th. Ovechkin and Backstrom are 12th and 20th, respectively.
Here are the top-four linemate duos so far this season:
Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay) - 52 goals, 117 points
Daniel and Henrik Sedin (Vancouver) - 36 goals, 113 points
Brad Richards and Louis Eriksson (Dallas) - 34 goals, 100 points
Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit) - 28 goals, 89 points
Incredible run by junior B goalie
Jordan Panasiuk's remarkable streak of eight consecutive shutouts was put on hold over the weekend due to bus trouble. The Fort St. John Huskies had bus problems and as a result their North West Junior Hockey League game against Panasiuk and the first-place Whitecourt Wolverines was postponed.
Whitecourt is 180 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. The 19-year-old Panasiuk has gone 15-0-0 this season and has a sensational .968 save percentage. He has made 173 consecutive saves and has not surrendered a goal in 494 minutes 12 seconds of action, dating back to Nov. 7.
This week's comparison
The wins are starting to come more frequently for the New York Islanders these days. They are 9-4-2 in their past 15 games. We couldn't help but notice how good linemates John Tavares, 19, and 27-year-old Matt Moulson have been for each other.
Tavares - 42 goals, 87 points in 122 games
Moulson - 44 goals, 74 points in 125 games
Odds and ends
The Minnesota Wild has feasted on the three Western Canadian clubs at the Xcel Energy Center this season. After a 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, the Wild improved its record to 5-0-1 against Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. Minnesota entertains each team one more time this season ... Worcester Sharks forward Jonathan Cheechoo scored the winner against the Springfield Falcons on Friday to give his coach Roy Sommer a 3-1 decision for his 461st victory in his 1,000 game behind an AHL bench. The former Edmonton Oilers forward became only the fourth coach to hit the milestone in the AHL, joining Bun Cook (1,171), Frank Mathers (1,256) and John Paddock (1,125) ... San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau and Jamie Langenbrunner of the Dallas Stars become the 257th and 258th players to play in 1,000 NHL games on Monday ... Former Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens goalie Brian Hayward broadcast his 1,000th game as an Anaheim Ducks analyst on Sunday.
Games I won't miss this week
1. The Flames have a chance to extend their road win streak to three games when they visit the Montreal Canadiens on Monday evening.
2. The Red Wings are minus injured players Pavel Datsyuk, Jimmy Howard and others and the Penguins will be without Sidney Crosby for the sixth consecutive game due to a concussion, but the league powers meet in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
3. The Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks clash in Chicago on Sunday afternoon for the first time since they met in the Stanley Cup final last spring.
(Photo of Adam Foote courtesy Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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