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Step Up Needed With Duchene, MacKinnon Injured

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche will need some of its players to step up offensively in the wake of the team's top two scorers sidelined with knee injuries.

Forwards Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon are ruled out for contests tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers and Saturday versus the Minnesota Wild, but head coach Patrick Roy isn't too worried about some members of his club increasing their production in the midst of a playoff push.

"Adversity is part of the game. Every team goes through that at some point in the season," Roy said. "Certainly it gives an opportunity for some of our players to make up for it. I was very happy with the performance that we had in Edmonton, and I just hope that we'll play the same kind of hockey.

"They are important players, but at the same time we're a team here…I like the mindset of our guys when they're saying they're capable of playing any style of hockey, and it's true. That is how we're going to find a way to win some hockey games."

Duchene got hurt during the victory in Vancouver on March 16, two days before MacKinnon was injured at the Calgary Flames last Friday. While the scoring ability of Duchene (29 goals) and MacKinnon (21 goals) will be missed, the Avs are confident they can continue to weather this bump in the road.

They've already done it by pulling out a shootout victory (and in comeback fashion) against the Flames and putting together a dominant performance versus the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday. The Avs won all three contests of their recent Western Canada road swing and are 5-1-0 in their last six outings.

"We're a confident team, no doubt. It doesn't matter who is in the lineup, we know we're a deep enough team to win hockey games," said captain Gabriel Landeskog, who scored the opening goal on Sunday after returning from a three-game suspension. "There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle that you need to win hockey games, and two guys out, it really wouldn't matter who is out or who is in. We know we can win hockey games, bottom line."

One player that filled that void during the trip was newly acquired left wing Mikkel Boedker, who came over from Arizona at the trade deadline on Feb. 29.

Boedker had only ever known what it was like to wear the Coyotes' burnt-red jerseys, but he is getting comfortable in Avalanche burgundy and blue. He has two goals and two assists in the last three games, and that doesn't include tallying the shootout-winning marker in the contest against the Flames.

Boedker has seven points (three goals and four assists) in nine games with Colorado and has 46 points (16 goals and 30 assists) in 71 contests overall. His 30 helpers this year are two shy of his career high, and he only needs three goals and five points to match his personal bests in those statistical areas as well (19 goals, 51 points in 2013-14).

"You want to always contribute. You want to always make good plays, and I think the last three games here have been going well," Boedker said. "I've been having the puck a lot and been able to find some open guys and finding some chemistry. I think it's been going well."

The Avalanche traded for Boedker to provide more offense in the top-six, and so far he's been doing just that. But with the length of Duchene and MacKinnon's injuries unknown, it puts even more pressure on the rest of the team to score.

"They're two of the top players on the team, and you never want to miss those guys. You always want them in the lineup," Boedker said, "but when they're out, unfortunately we need other guys to step up, and that's what we have to do in order to make a run at the playoff spot. I think bad timing, obviously, but we need guys to step up, and we need to really come together as a unit and provide a spark. Hopefully, we can come out with a win tonight."

Boedker said he doesn't feel any extra weight on his shoulders to produce more offensively then he did before the two centers got hurt.

"There is always pressure," he said. "You always want to contribute, and you always want to help your team and help the team you play for. I think on the road trip it went well, and I got to see if I can continue on."

Boedker isn't the only player who will be looked upon to step up their game. With nine contests left, it's all hands on deck for the Avs.

"Anytime top guys go down, that opens up opportunity for other guys. So far other guys have stepped into roles and have done a good job," said defenseman Nick Holden. "We're going to need everybody in the playoffs, and that is no different now, we're going to need everybody to continue to play well and fill spots."

However, Boedker's skill set most resembles that of Duchene and MacKinnon's, as he's already displayed speed, slick hands and a nice shot in his short time with the Avalanche. He might see more of an expanded role to contribute because of it.

The Avs could use another big game from the Brondby, Denmark, native, and the team might just get it. Boedker has recorded nine points (three goals and six assists) in eight career contests against the Flyers.

Colorado would welcome it if that trend continued tonight.

CLOSE TO A RECORD

It's not easy or necessarily fun to block shots, but it can be rewarding when denying an opponent's scoring chance.

Veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin has done it all season for Colorado and is now just two blocked shots away from tying the Avalanche record for the most in a single season. Brett Clark holds the record with 238 during the 2008-09 campaign.

Beauchemin's 236 blocks leads the NHL this year, with Dallas' Kris Russell a fairly distant second place at 204. As a team, the Avs lead the league with 1,251 blocked shots.

PROJECTED LINEUP

Mikkel Boedker—Mikhail Grigorenko—Blake Comeau
Shawn Matthias—Carl Soderberg—Gabriel Landeskog
Andreas Martinsen—John Mitchell—Jarome Iginla
Cody McLeod—Mikko Rantanen—Jack Skille

Francois Beauchemin—Erik Johnson
Nick Holden—Tyson Barrie
Chris Bigras—Andrew Bodnarchuk or Zach Redmond

Semyon Varlamov
Calvin Pickard

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