It was an interesting 24-hour span for new Avalanche players Erik Johnson
and Jay McClement
After playing a road game for St. Louis against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night, they joined their teammates on a flight back to Missouri that touched down in the early morning hours. Immediately after landing, the duo was informed that they were now property of the Colorado Avalanche.
Johnson and McClement, who were both drafted by St. Louis and had spent their entire professional careers within the Blues’ organization, were understandably caught off guard by the news. Still, they both caught a 7:00 a.m. flight to San Jose on Saturday morning in order to play in tonight’s game against the Sharks.
Johnson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft, was undoubtedly the centerpiece of the deal from the Avalanche’s standpoint. A mobile skater with impressive size, the 6-foot-4, 232-pound blueliner also provides the Avalanche with a booming right-handed shot from the point.
The Bloomington, Minn., native spent his first game with the Avs playing alongside Ryan Wilson
during even-strength situations and manning one of the points on the top power-play unit across from John-Michael Liles.
Johnson ranked second on the Blues in ice time prior to the trade, averaging 22:07 per contest.
Saturday evening against San Jose, Johnson logged a game-high 26:44 of ice time (including 4:37 on the power play) and recoded two shots on goal, a hit, one takeaway and two blocked shots.
Perhaps slightly overlooked in the deal is the Avalanche’s acquisition of McClement, an extremely solid defensive player who will be a big asset for Colorado’s penalty-killing unit.
During the 2009-10 campaign, McClement led all NHL forwards by averaging 3:44 of short-handed ice time per game (a category he ranks seventh in this season with a 3:06 per-game average). He also received some recognition from the Selke Trophy voters last season as “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.” McClement earned a pair of first-place votes, four fourth-place votes and five fifth-place votes to rank 16th overall in the balloting.
The Kingston, Ontario native skated on a line with Daniel Winnik and Brandon Yip tonight and also saw time with Winnik on the penalty kill.
McClement was on the ice for 14:39 tonight, notching three shots, a hit and a takeaway. He played 2:50 while the Avs were short-handed and wasn’t on the ice for either of San Jose’s two power-play tallies.
One of the toughest things for players to do following a trade is to play on the road against their old team for the first time. Johnson and McClement won’t have to wait long to get that out of the way, as Colorado will visit St. Louis on Tuesday night to make up a contest that was originally scheduled for Feb. 1 but had to be postponed due to inclement weather in Missouri.