After practice on Thursday, Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy announced that forward Matt Duchene might play in Friday’s contest against the Washington Capitals.
Duchene suffered a knee injury during the third period of the Avalanche’s 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on March 16. He skated three times prior to Thursday's practice and said he felt good on the ice after participating in the full session with the team.
“I feel comfortable and healthy enough. The doctors feel good and the trainers feel good, so I am ready to go,” said Duchene. “I think today in practice, it was great to get out there and shake the rust off even a bit more. I felt on the ice yesterday that I was pretty rusty, but today I felt a lot better. I felt like I could get right back to where I left off.”
The center has six points (two goals, four assists) in his last four games and leads Colorado with 29 goals and 56 points in 71 contests this season.
“I wanted to come back and have some closure on the season,” said Duchene. “It could have been a lot worse. I am very blessed that it wasn’t and very happy to be able to play again—at least the last five, or hopefully into the playoffs if we make a run here and get in.”
Right wing Jarome Iginla said Duchene's return to the lineup would help energize the team.
“He’s a big part of our team, all the way around, there’s no question,” said the veteran forward. “It will be a great boost to have Dutch back."
Roy didn't totally confirm that Duchene would return on Friday, but he is confident the 25-year-old would be ready to play if cleared.
“I want to make sure I talk to Matt and the team doctors before telling you, ‘Yes, he will play,’” Roy said to the media after practice. “But Matt seems to be ready to play.”
MORE LINEUP NOTES
Roy said that should Duchene return to the lineup, he will be on a line with Mikhail Grigorenko and Mikkel Boedker.
“I am going to put him with Grigorenko and Boedker,” said Roy. “Dutchy and Grigorenko [have] been playing really well together. And I [will] put [Shawn] Matthias with [John] Mitchell and Iginla. I thought maybe that would give us four good lines.”
The head coach also talked about the recent changes he has made to the team's defensive pairings. Francois Beauchemin and Erik Johnson had played together almost the entire season, but Roy separated the veterans to pair them with young blueliners Chris Bigras and Nikita Zadorov prior to Monday’s contests against the Nashville Predators.
“I am very happy with them,” Roy said. “I thought Bigras played really well with [Johnson], and Beauch played really well with [Zadorov]. [Nick] Holden and [Tyson] Barrie [have] been playing together all year. I think it gives us three solid pairings, and I thought it went well in our games.”
According to Roy, goaltender Semyon Varlamov will be in the crease for the 7 p.m. contest versus the Capitals.
Story updated 4:32 p.m. MT