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The Kids Are Alright

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The more opportunities Brandon Yip receives, the more he takes advantage.

After being called up to the Avalanche for the first time on Dec. 18, the rookie saw less than seven minutes of ice time in each of his first three NHL games. But it was in that third contest that Yip began to show a glimpse of the offensive potential he can provide when he netted his first career NHL goal against the Anaheim Ducks.

Possessing a unique combination of size, strength and skill, Yip has impressed the Pepsi Center faithful during the first six weeks of his rookie career. He’s obviously made an impression on the Avalanche’s coaches as well, as he’s played fewer than 12 minutes just once in the past 16 games. And with the Avalanche battling a handful of injuries, the Boston University product has stepped in and filled some of the scoring void on Colorado’s front line.

Displaying his willingness to crash the net, Yip scored twice on Tuesday night during Colorado’s 5-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The rookie netted his seventh goal of the season during the second period by cutting hard to the net and depositing a Kyle Cumiskey feed to give the Avalanche a 2-1 advantage.

He would then record the eighth goal of his freshman campaign just 41 seconds into the final frame. After T.J. Galiardi missed the net with a turnaround shot from the slot, Yip swooped in and put a low backhander on goal that beat Columbus netminder Mathieu Garon.

After going pointless in his first two games, Yip has totaled 15 points (8g/7a) in his last 17 contests.

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Four Minutes, Two Shorties
In a rare feat, Ryan O’Reilly managed to score a pair of short-handed goals just minutes apart after Avalanche assistant captain Paul Stastny was sent to the penalty box for four minutes at 7:05 of the third period for high-sticking.

That’s when O’Reilly and Galiardi – Colorado’s top penalty-killing forwards – took over. O’Reilly first received a pass from Galiardi and beat Garon with a shot from the left circle just nine seconds into Stastny’s penalty.

A few shifts later, Galiardi went hard to the net and threw a feed out front while falling to the ice. The puck slipped past a Columbus defender and went right onto O’Reilly’s stick for another short-handed tally at 10:29.

O’Reilly came into tonight’s contest averaging 2:57 of ice time on the penalty kill, but his two short-handed goals were the first of his career.

Seven ‘D’
For the second time in three games Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco dressed seven defensemen tonight. Sacco also played seven blueliners last Friday in Dallas, saying at the time that he made the move as “insurance” in case captain Adam Foote experienced any difficulties while returning from an ankle injury.

When the Avs hosted the New York Rangers on Sunday, the head coach scratched John-Michael Liles and went with a traditional set of six defensemen.

Liles was back in the lineup tonight against Columbus, with Chris Durno and David Koci serving as the healthy scratches.

Hendricks, Hejduk Updates
Following Tuesday’s morning skate, Sacco broke the news that forward Matt Hendricks (ankle) will remain shelved for the foreseeable future.

The Blaine, Minn., native last played on Jan. 18 versus Edmonton, making tonight’s contest the sixth consecutive that he’s missed.

“I would say he’s probably going to be (back) after the Olympic break,” said Sacco. “He had to have a minor procedure done on it. It’s in an area where it’s very uncomfortable if you put the boot on.”

Hendricks has totaled eight points (5g/3a) in 37 games this season while typically centering the Avalanche’s fourth line.

“Matt played well for us before his injury,” said Sacco. “He was providing us with good energy on that fourth line. I was able to bump him up on other lines when I felt other guys weren’t going.”

Sacco also gave a brief update on the status of Milan Hejduk (knee), who began skating on Monday after undergoing an arthroscopic procedure on Jan. 20. After the morning skate, the head coach said he wouldn't rule out the possibility of the forward returning before the Olympic break.

However, following the game Sacco told the media that the team would err on the side of caution, meaning Hejduk won't return until March.
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