Season on line for undermanned Avalanche
Colorado looking to become 1st NHL team in 33 years to overcome 3-0 series deficit
The best part of Wednesday's off day for the Colorado Avalanche was none of the players hurt themselves getting out of bed, leaving home or walking into the Pepsi Center.
Unfortunately, previous injuries to forwards Wojtek Wolski (upper body), Ryan Smyth (foot), Paul Stastny (knee), Peter Forsberg (groin) and defenceman Scott Hannan (foot) have contributed to a 3-0 series deficit in Round 2 of the NHL playoffs.
The good news is Hannan returned for Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, while Smyth and Forsberg are listed as questionable and a game-time decision for Game 4 Thursday in Colorado (8 p.m. MT).
The bad news is one more loss and Colorado will be swept from the best-of-seven NHL Western Conference semifinal. None of the previous playoff series between the rivals has ended in a sweep.
"We still need that fourth win," Red Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom told reporters. "You have to win four games. We've only won three."
Stastny hurt himself in the first period of Game 3 and is doubtful for Thursday and beyond. Forsberg, who has missed two games in the series, spent Wednesday morning getting examined by team doctors for an undisclosed injury.
In the series opener, Wolski suffered what appeared to be a shoulder injury, while winger Marek Svatos (knee) was sidelined prior to the post-season.
"We've definitely had our share," Avalanche captain Joe Sakic said of the injuries. "Again, this organization never has made any excuses with injuries, and we're not going to start now. The guys in the lineup, we have to find a way to win the next game."
Thoroughly dominated in Games 1-3, a standout performance from goaltender Jose Theodore may be the only answer. The difference in a West quarter-final win over Minnesota, he spent the first two games of this series recovering from the flu and was pulled from both starts in Detroit in favour of Peter Budaj.
Theodore has allowed four goals in each of his three starts against the Red Wings and sports a bloated 6.55 goals-against average in the series.
His career record in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs is 2-16, including 14 consecutive losses.
"I thought Jose played well," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said of Theodore's 31-save effort in Game 3. "The goaltending was fine. I think he looked sharper. He looked good in practice again (Wednesday). I don't think the goaltending is an issue."
Undisciplined play, however, has been a huge problem.
In Game 3, the Avalanche took seven penalties and the Wings converted two of them to give Detroit five power-play goals in the series. The Red Wings ranked third among the NHL's 30 teams in power-play efficiency during the regular season, so Colorado knew it had to play physical and smart.
"Punching guys in the head has nothing to do with speed," veteran Avalanche defenceman Adam Foote said. "We just have to play with the same emotion, the same intensity, but we can't go into the box. We have to be more in control of the emotions."
Veteran winger Andrew Brunette, who is second only to Sakic with seven points in nine games in this year's playoffs, believes Colorado can skate with the Red Wings.
"We aren't helping ourselves in a lot of situations. We get some momentum and then something happens, whether we get a penalty or we're a little too loose in the defensive zone and they get a goal out of it," he said. "It's hard to keep getting momentum and losing it that quick."
The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders are the only NHL teams ever to win a series after losing the first three games.
With files from the Associated Press