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Johnson Scores In Return To St. Louis

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
It wasn’t an entirely unique situation, but it was an interesting one nonetheless.

With little doubt, the biggest storyline heading into Tuesday’s game was the return of defenseman Erik Johnson and forward Jay McClement to St. Louis – and from the other perspective, forward Chris Stewart and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk going up against their old team for the first time.

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Late Friday night, Colorado and St. Louis completed what has arguably been the biggest in-season trade of the year, with the Avalanche acquiring a former No. 1 overall pick in Johnson and a player who received a pair of first-place votes for the Selke Trophy a season ago in McClement, plus a first-round pick. Headed the other way was a budding power forward in Stewart and a talented rookie defenseman in Shattenkirk, plus a second-round draft choice.

The trade sent shockwaves through the NHL and built considerable buzz for tonight’s game, considering how quickly the four players would be facing off against their old clubs.

Johnson and McClement got the best of this meeting, as the Avalanche skated away as 4-3 winners.

Johnson scored a key goal for Colorado, netting his first tally as an Av at the 14:54 mark of the third period to give his new club a 3-2 lead. With St. Louis forward BJ Crombeen draped all over him, the defenseman grabbed a loose puck and fired a wrister from the top of the left circle that found the back of net.

Just like in his debut Saturday against San Jose, Johnson spent most of the night paired with Ryan Wilson on Colorado’s blue line, logging a game-high 25:22 of ice time and recording three shots on goal. He spent 5:52 at one of the points on Colorado’s top power-play unit and 1:23 on the penalty kill while also contributing three blocked shots and two hits.

McClement, meanwhile, centered a line that included Kevin Porter and Daniel Winnik and totaled 12:52 of ice time. Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco showed a large amount of trust in McClement, playing him in the closing minute as Colorado clung onto a one-goal lead.

Stewart and Shattenkirk won’t be making a return trip to Denver this season (unless the teams happen to meet in the playoffs) because the Blues have already played in Colorado twice. The Avs will visit St. Louis again on April 5 in the fourth and final meeting between the clubs this season.

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Duchene Returns
Listed as “probable” to return following Monday’s practice, Avalanche center Matt Duchene was indeed in the lineup on Tuesday.

The second-year professional had missed Colorado’s past two games with a hand injury that was suffered when he was struck by then-teammate Shattenkirk’s point shot on Feb. 14 versus Calgary. Two days after the game, Duchene was listed as being out indefinitely, but on Monday he revealed (without going into too many specifics) that he and the team’s trainers had found a way for him to play with minimal pain.

The center saw 19:02 of ice time, recorded two shots on net and also manned one of the points on Colorado’s top power-play unit opposite Johnson.

With Duchene back in action, David Koci and Mark Olver were the Avalanche’s healthy forward scratches.

Holos Also Back
Also making his way back into the lineup was Jonas Holos, who had been sidelined the past four games with a head injury.

It marked the first game Holos played with his new No. 36 sweater. The Norwegian blueliner, who had been wearing No. 6, was assigned his new number after Johnson was acquired via trade and took it over.

With Holos back, fellow rookie Cameron Gaunce was Colorado’s healthy scratch on the back line. Gaunce had played in each of the last four games after being recalled from the Lake Erie Monsters on Feb. 12 and making his NHL debut that night against the Nashville Predators.

Elliott Should Be Available Wednesday
Johnson and McClement are expected to make their home debuts Wednesday as Colorado finishes off a back-to-back road/home set by hosting the Edmonton Oilers at Pepsi Center.

Just as importantly, the Avalanche’s other recent acquisition, goaltender Brian Elliott, is expected to be available to the team tomorrow after his immigration paperwork process wrapped up on Tuesday.

Elliott was acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators on Friday morning in exchange for netminder Craig Anderson. The University of Wisconsin product has a 59-45-15 record with a 2.81 goals-against average and .903 save percentage in 130 career appearances.

Jones’ 20th
David Jones opened the game’s scoring tonight by netting his 20th goal of the season at the 3:07 mark of the first period.

Jones converted a nice pass from Paul Stastny, who worked his way through the St. Louis defense before sliding a feed to his linemate. From there, Jones tapped the puck past St. Louis netminder Ty Conklin from just outside the goal crease.

The Guelph, Ontario native became the second Avalanche player to hit the 20-goal plateau this season, and currently sits one tally behind Duchene (21) for the team lead. Four Colorado players recorded at least 20 goals last season: Stewart (28), Duchene (24), Milan Hejduk (23) and Stastny (20).

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