The Colorado Avalanche will be without its top goalscoring defenseman on Tuesday as it faces the Nashville Predators in one of the most important games of the season.
“He had a scope today on his knee, and he will be out for about 3-8 weeks,” Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said today following the team’s practice.
The 26-year-old rear guard is a key piece of the Avalanche defense, logging a team-high 24:45 of ice time per game. Johnson is also fourth on the team in goals (12), first in blocked shots (107) and is second in defensive pointscoring.
His 12 goals are also good for a first-place tie in the NHL for blueline scoring.
“He is, first of all, very disappointed by the situation, but it’s out of our control,” said Roy. “Now what we control is how we’re going to play tomorrow night in Nashville, and that’s what we need to focus on. We have a lot of confidence in our group, and it will be a different responsibility for some of our defensemen.”
With four days off to rest and recharge during the NHL All-Star break, many on the club are relaxed and ready for the final push to secure a playoff berth. This is good news for many on the back end, as they will work to fill the void left by Johnson’s absence.
“It was nice to get that break and kind of recharge the body,” said rear guard Nick Holden, who will share in the responsibility of keeping the defense strong down the stretch. “I think it’s going to be important for everybody to pick up a little bit. I don’t think any one guy can kind of replace [him] and do what Erik was doing. We can definitely all grab a little bit of what his share was and kind of lean on each other for that.”
One person who stands to see more playing time is Zach Redmond. The 26-year-old defenseman returned to the Avalanche lineup last Wednesday against Boston after missing the previous 11 games as a healthy scratch.
“I’m just looking to contribute wherever they need me and hoping all goes well,” said Redmond, prognosticating about moving ahead without Johnson. “It’s hard to say with injuries right now, but increased minutes—I think—helps everybody get into the game more and get more comfortable. I’m always looking forward to a challenge and looking forward to playing, and it should be a fun stretch.”
The Avs will play a home-and-home series against the Central Division-leading Predators, beginning Tuesday night in Tennessee. For Colorado, the road to the playoffs essentially begins Tuesday. Three points out of a wild card spot and with less schedule left on the year, the Avalanche is focusing on the game at hand to maintain perspective.
“We try to focus short term all the time. We try to focus on how to play the game. I assume if we play well offensively, defensively, then we’ll win our share of games,” said Roy. “The guys seem pretty excited to come back and we look forward to tomorrow night in Nashville.”
“They’re obviously having a great season, and I think for us we need to go about this… like a playoff run. Right now, it’s all about winning,” said Redmond. “I don’t think it matters how it happens. We need points, we need wins, and we’ll do anything to get them.”