Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles didn’t take part in practice Thursday morning at Family Sports Center, two days after suffering a leg injury during the first period of Colorado’s 5-2 loss to Minnesota at Xcel Energy Center.
Following today’s skate, Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco categorized Liles as “questionable” for Friday night’s contest against the Anaheim Ducks. Sacco said the team will wait to see how the Indianapolis native feels in the morning, and then hopefully he will take part in the morning skate before a decision is ultimately made about his availability.
The blueliner played just four shifts and totaled 2:21 of ice time against the Wild before leaving the ice with a leg injury suffered when he absorbed a hit from Brad Staubitz, forcing the Avalanche to play the final 54 minutes of the game with five defensemen.
Because of Liles’ injury, all the Avalanche’s other five defensemen all logged at least 19:00 of ice time on Tuesday. It’s not a situation in which you want to find your team, but the members of Colorado’s defensive corps were generally pleased with their play considering they were short-staffed for much of the evening.
“You’re certainly more conscious of your ice time in a situation like that and not getting caught out there,” said Matt Hunwick
. “I think for the most part we did a pretty good job as a five-man unit of keeping our shifts short. The second period is really where it comes into play, where you have the long line change and have to really be conscious of getting that left defenseman off the ice.”
Playing the majority of a game with only five defensemen also means that there are no set partners on the back line. In most cases – excluding special teams – the players rotated ice time in what can essentially be described as a “next-man-up” approach. In a case like that, the defensive cohesion that is built in practice comes in quite handy.
“We play enough with each other at practice that it’s not really a big deal not having your usual partner,” added Hunwick. “You also play more in a case like that, so you’re in the game more.”
If Liles can’t go on Friday, the Avalanche still has six healthy defensemen on its roster. Rookie blueliner Jonas Holos
, who was a healthy scratch Tuesday in Minnesota, would be inserted into the lineup in Liles’ place.
Liles is the only player to appear in each of the Avalanche’s first 66 games. He is tied for eighth among league defensemen in scoring with 42 points (6g/36a) and also ranks in a tie for sixth in assists.
In other news, Sacco announced that Brian Elliott will get the starting nod in goal against the Ducks.