Defenseman Ryan O’Byrne is ready to return and will be in the lineup Tuesday night when the Avalanche faces the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.
O’Byrne has missed Colorado’s past four games after suffering a severe facial laceration during the team’s Feb. 23 contest against the Edmonton Oilers. Just minutes into that game, O’Byrne was struck in the face by the skate of Edmonton rookie Taylor Hall during a play behind Colorado’s net. After finishing his shift, O’Byrne was taken to a local hospital, where he received approximately 100 stitches to close up the wound.
The blueliner discussed the injury following Monday morning’s practice, emphasizing how fortunate he was that Hall’s blade caught him in the cheek instead of the neck or the eye.
“They said that there is a nerve there and it just missed it. It kind of cut right through, but the nerve was intact. That would have been pretty tough; obviously I would have got kind of a droopy lip or whatever. And also the neck, obviously, we’ve seen it before with (Richard) Zednik. I was fortunate. It could have hit me in the eye or the neck.”
Not surprisingly, given the speed at which the play happened, O’Byrne wasn’t sure at first what exactly had occurred or how badly he was injured. His first thought was that maybe a stick had struck him in the face.
“It’s just one of those things where you don’t really know how bad it is. I kind of put my hand to my face and I knew I was bleeding and then I went back to the slot. I knew it was pretty bad, but I didn’t know how bad it was. I didn’t really feel much pain, so I figured I might as well finish my shift.”
Any athlete knows that adrenaline usually takes over during a game, and that you don’t always feel the pain or realize how bad an injury is until your blood stops pumping so hard. It wasn’t until his defensive partner, John-Michael Liles, yelled at him to get off the ice that O’Byrne started to think the injury might be of the serious nature.
“When I came to the bench all the coaches and the players were staring at me with their jaws dropped, I was kind of like ‘maybe it’s pretty bad,” said O’Byrne. “Once I got in the ambulance I kind of sat down and relaxed and that’s when it just started throbbing.”
From there, the blueliner underwent an operation that began at midnight and took three hours to complete, with the end result being 30 stitches on the outside of his left cheek and another 70 inside. While sitting in the hospital waiting for the procedure, O’Byrne took a cell phone picture of his face to assess the damage and labeled what he saw “pretty startling.”
Having lived off soft foods and given a mandate to speak as little as possible in the first few days following the surgery to let the cut heal, O’Byrne is now stitch-free after having the outer stitches taken out approximately 10 days ago and the inner ones being removed just this morning.
As a result of the injury, O’Byrne will likely wear a full cage for the remainder of the season, which is almost the exact same model that he sported during his NCAA career at Cornell University.
“I guess the positive about this injury is that it doesn’t really restrict you from working out and keeping in shape. I couldn’t really do anything for about a week or so, but after that I was on the ice and working out again. I feel good and ready to go.”Gaunce Reassigned
Defenseman Cameron Gaunce
was reassigned to the Lake Erie Monsters late on Saturday evening.
The return of captain Adam Foote on Saturday gave the Avalanche seven healthy defensemen, leading to Gaunce serving as a healthy scratch during Colorado’s 5-1 loss to the Oilers. Now, with O’Byrne ready to return, that number would have moved up to eight and likely would have meant that Gaunce would have seen minimal playing time with the Avalanche.
Instead, the rookie will now be able to log extensive minutes with Colorado’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, as they make a push toward their first playoff berth in franchise history. As of Monday morning, Lake Erie sits in fourth place in the North Division with 72 points (32-25-3-5), just two points behind the division-leading Hamilton Bulldogs (74).
Gaunce has appeared in seven games with Colorado this season, tallying one goal and nine penalty minutes.