DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche anticipated there could be some injuries because of the short training camp that followed the lockout, but how do you prepare for the season-ending knee injury sustained by gritty forward Steve Downie in just the second game? He is a unique player and can't be readily replaced.
The 5-foot-11, 191-pound left wing suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Tuesday night in the Avalanche's 3-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings. He will undergo surgery and miss the remainder of the season.
"I just think we have to, as a group, we just have to try and make up for Downie's loss as a group, not by one individual -- whether it's offensively, whether it's defensively, because those are a couple of elements he brings to our team," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said after the morning skate Thursday at the Pepsi Center.
"He certainly brings a physical aspect to the game, so we need everybody picking it up a little bit, to pick up the slack. Again, do it by committee. We've dealt with injuries in the past, so this is nothing different. We'll deal with it."
Sacco said he hadn't yet decided who would slide into Downie's spot on the third line with center John Mitchell and right wing Milan Hejduk for Thursday night's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Chuck Kobasew is a possibility. A 6-foot, 192-pounder, Kobasew will make his season debut after missing a portion of training camp because of illness. He was scratched for the first two games.
"He is eager to get back in the lineup, so it's a great opportunity for Chuckie," Sacco said. "He looks really good. He's skated hard, he looks fit and he's ready to play. He wants to make an impact on our team. With change brings opportunity."
Kobasew, 30, had seven goals, seven assists and 51 penalty minutes in 58 games last season after signing as a free agent. He missed 16 games with head and back injuries.
"You never want to miss the first couple games, let alone the extended break that we had there with the lockout," Kobasew said. "I have to be physical wherever I play, get in on the forecheck and make it hard for their team's defensemen. I haven't played in nine months, so I'm not going to try and recreate anything."
Rugged Cody McLeod (6-2, 210) has a nasty edge to his game and could move up to Downie's spot from the fourth line. The Avalanche recalled forward Brad Malone from the Lake Erie Monsters in the American Hockey League, but he won't dress tonight.
Downie had two goals, 11 assists, 16 penalty minutes and a plus-9 rating in 20 games with the Avalanche last season following his Feb. 21, 2012 acquisition in exchange for defenseman Kyle Quincey in a three-team trade that included the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning. He had 12 goals, 16 assists and 121 penalty minutes in 55 games with the Lightning and provided the Avalanche with some much-needed grit up front. He's fearless going into the corners and to the front of the net.
Downie was injured 2 1/2 minutes into the second period of Tuesday's game against the Kings when he attempted to check defenseman Davis Drewiske in the corner. Downie fell awkwardly and managed to limp off the ice under his own power.
"It's tough, but it's part of it, I guess, unfortunately," captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "We have to make the most of what we have. We still have a pretty solid lineup. We don't have (unsigned restricted free agent Ryan O'Reilly) either, but we're still trying to win every single game. I don't think it's going to affect us how we approach the game or how we play the game. We're still going to go out there and play like we have a full lineup.
"We all know Downs, he's an energy guy. He gives us a lot of confidence out there. He has a kind of swagger to his game that we need and he's a really skilled player. No doubt we're going to miss him.
"But we're not going to change much. We have a lot of guys with a lot of grit and energy and skill. Everyone's just going to have to step up a little bit. Mitch is going in on the power play and he's shown in the first two games that he's got a lot of skill. He works hard and he plays a physical game as well. We're obviously going to miss Downs, but we have a lot of good players in this lineup."
Sacco emphasized that no one player can try to emulate Downie's game, though the coach expects the team as a whole to be difficult to play against.
"We talk a lot about doing your job, and that basically says go out there and be the player that you are," Sacco said. "Don't try to do somebody else's job. Don't try to be somebody you're not. Bring what you bring, and bring it all the time.
"(Downie's injury) has an impact, but it's happening around the League. You look around the League and a lot of players are getting injured right now. I don't want to say that I expected us to have injuries, but in the back of our heads we knew it would be a possibility, that we could get some guys injured with the situation. We're prepared, we're ready. We have guys ready to step in."
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