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Mitchell Gutting It Out

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

One of the gutsiest performances of the season in the NHL has to go to John Mitchell.

After being hit in the face by an Adrian Aucoin shot and bleeding profusely at 3:38 of the first period, Mitchell returned to the Avalanche bench in the stanza and scored a key insurance goal later in Colorado’s 4-0 win over Columbus on Thursday night.

“It’s always nice when you take a significant injury, get stitched up, and you come back,” Mitchell said after the game with bandages on his forehead and nose and gauze up his right nostril. “I just wanted to try and come back and help the team out any way I could. Scoring a goal is obviously a bonus, but if it’s not that, it’s all the other little things that add up.”

His goal came at 4:38 of the final period, giving Colorado a comfortable 3-0 advantage. As he was moving up the ice, he received the puck from Milan Hejduk at the Columbus blue line, made a move and let a wrist shot go, scoring on the low short side.

“His face has taken a little bit of a beaten lately, but he persevered, came back out and scored a big goal for us,” Sacco said of the center, who was also cut on his face before he scored his first goal of the season at Minnesota on Jan. 19.

In his 11:59 of ice time in the game, he also won 75 percent (6-of-8) of his face-offs and blocked three shots – one of which hurt really bad.

“He has been really good for us in the first three games,” Sacco said. “Certainly I like the way he has played; he is versatile, he can kill penalties, he can play on our power play. He can do a lot for us.”

“High marks for the way he has been playing lately."

Duchene In The Groove

Matt Duchene put more of an emphasis on health and fitness in the offseason. Through three games this season, it appears as though it has helped.

Duchene had two goals and an assist in Colorado’s win over Columbus and now has four points in the last two games. He had an assist in the game-tying goal on Tuesday, one that helped create a three-goal third period and a 3-1 win over Los Angeles.

Colorado jumped out to an early 1-0 lead just 51 seconds into the contest with the Blue Jackets as Duchene, getting the puck in the slot from Jan Hejda, fed it to the left circle for PA Parenteau, who swiped it past Sergei Bobrovsky for the goal.

Duchene picked up his own tally at 12:25 of the first period as Hejduk’s shot from the right circle went off Chuck Kobasew in front and rebounded off the Columbus netminder to Duchene in the slot, who threw it into a gap in the net.

“Getting up a couple goals, you put them in a hole right away,” Duchene said. “We were able to do that.

The center added his final point of the night with 1:18 left in the third when he received a pass from Parenteau at the Columbus blue line, pushed the puck forward and re-gathered control and fired a low shot before the Bobrovsky could get it.

He also almost scored four minutes earlier when he stole the puck in the Columbus zone and wristed one just off the goalie’s left shoulder.

A First For Varly

Goaltender Semyon Varlamov had four shutouts last season, all on the road. He was finally able to show the home crowd at Pepsi Center his best as he made 33 saves while giving up zero goals against in the win.

“I’ve been playing well,” Varlamov said. “It’s all about the work. I try to work in practice, and that’s why.”

The netminder also had a lot of help from his defense in front of him as the Avalanche blocked 26 shots in the game, 19 more than the Blue Jackets did.

“The guys did a great job for me.” He said. “They blocked lots of shots, so I can say thanks.”

The shutout was Varlamov’s ninth of his career.

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