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Avalanche/Coyotes Notebook

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Koci Suits Up On ‘D’

With Colorado short-handed on the blue line, a decision had to be made tonight.

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The Avalanche is currently carrying 10 blueliners on its roster, but due to numerous injuries the club had just six healthy bodies on the blue line during Thursday’s contest against Nashville.

Making matters worse, in last night’s game Cameron Gaunce hurt his hand during the second period and went back to the trainer’s room for a period of time. He eventually returned to play the final frame, but it was revealed on Friday that the rookie will be out indefinitely due to the hand ailment.

As a result, the club went into tonight’s game against the Coyotes with five full-time defensemen available. Instead of calling up a player from the American Hockey League on short notice, forward David Koci played on the back end tonight for Colorado.

It’s been mentioned in this space before (as recently as Wednesday), but Koci grew up playing defense and actually continued in that role during his first five years within the Pittsburgh Penguins’ organization. It was only during the 2006-07 campaign, when he joined the Chicago Blackhawks’ farm system, that Koci began taking the occasional shift as a forward.

The Czech Republic native often plays defense during Colorado’s practices when the team is short on blueliners because of injuries or players sitting out for maintenance days, so it’s not unfamiliar territory for him.

Koci, who last played defense in an NHL game two years ago with the Tampa Bay Lightning, played 12 shifts and totaled 7:30 of ice time, recording an even plus/minus rating, one hit and one blocked shot.

Injury Record
The Avalanche had nine players sit out tonight’s game because of injuries or illness, whether those ailments were of the long-term or short-term nature. The list included forwards Tomas Fleischmann (pulmonary emboli), T.J. Galiardi (forearm), Peter Mueller (head) and Mark Olver (illness) and defensemen Kyle Cumiskey (whiplash), Adam Foote (leg), Gaunce (hand), Kyle Quincey (shoulder) and Ryan Wilson (knee).

As a result, Colorado officially eclipsed the franchise record for man-games lost due to injury, with that total now reaching 425 games. The previous mark was 417 games, set during the 2003-04 campaign. Only the New York Islanders have lost more man-games to injury this season.

With five players officially out for the season and others still battling nagging injuries, the Avalanche will have more than 450 man-games lost at season’s end.

Odds and Ends
Peter Budaj stopped 35 shots and denied all three Phoenix shootout attempts to pick up his 100th career victory tonight…Budaj became the third goalie in franchise history to reach 100 career wins, joining Patrick Roy (262) and Dan Bouchard (107)…He also became the first Slovakian-born netminder in NHL history to reach that plateau…The Avalanche played all of Thursday’s game against Nashville without receiving a power play, but they didn’t have to wait long tonight as Phoenix defenseman Rostislav Klesla was whistled for a tripping infraction just 1:35 into the contest…Centers Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene have spent a large chunk of time skating on a line together in recent games - with Duchene occupying the left wing - but Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco returned the second-year pro to his natural position tonight…Stastny centered a line consisting of Daniel Winnik and David Jones on the wings, while Duchene skated in between Kevin Porter and Milan HejdukJay McClement netted his first goal with the Avalanche at the 7:16 mark of the second period after one-touching Daniel Winnik’s cross-crease feed past Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. McClement also picked up an assist on Philippe Dupuis’ goal earlier in the game, marking his first multi-point game with Colorado.
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