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Ankle injury to sideline Duchene 3-4 weeks

by John Manasso
NASHVILLE -- Colorado center Matt Duchene's ankle injury will keep him out 3-4 weeks, coach Joe Sacco said on Thursday, costing the team one of its top players in the midst of a playoff drive.

Duchene, who has 13 goals and 13 assists in 48 games, hurt himself in Tuesday's 7-1 win over Minnesota after playing 11:36. It's the second time this season the Avs will be without the two-time 20-goal scorer, as a knee injury cost Duchene 20 games between Dec. 31 and Feb. 17. Colorado entered the day 10th in the Western Conference, but tied with 74 points with both San Jose and Los Angeles, which are in the eighth and ninth spots, respectively.

Sacco said the injury will not require surgery.

"We've done a good job of dealing with injuries and throughout this season we haven't had that many -- knock on wood -- not as many as we've had the last couple of years," Sacco said. "But he missed a significant amount of time before that with a knee injury and we were OK. It's just an opportunity, maybe, for other people to step into maybe more of a role than they previously had."

Sacco said for Thursday's game with Nashville, Mark Olver would move to Duchene's spot at center. Olver, 24, who was called up from Lake Erie (AHL) on Feb. 16, has 3 goals and 2 assists and is plus-3 in 10 games.

In hindsight, two moves that Colorado made before the NHL trading deadline passed that brought more scoring look prescient. The Avalanche sent defenseman Kyle Quincey to Tampa Bay and received forward Steve Downie, who has 14 goals, in return. Downie has 2 goals and 8 assists in seven games since coming over.

They also acquired left wing Jamie McGinn from the Sharks with Mike Connolly and Michael Sgarbossa for TJ Galiardi, Daniel Winnik and a seventh-round pick in 2013. McGinn, who has 15 goals on the season, has 3 goals and 1 assist in four games since joining Colorado.

"We feel we have good depth at all our positions right now," Sacco said. "We have good depth up front, we have good depth on defense, our goaltending's been pretty solid for us throughout the whole course of the season, so it is nice obviously when you lose a body here or there that you know you can rely on a couple guys for at the deadline, Downie, both him and Jamie McGinn, both players have been real good for us since the trade.

"Both are starting to find their way around the locker room, their way around the players, but more importantly they've been very productive and have had an impact on our team in a positive way, so they've been good."

Downie missed Sunday's game with Minnesota because of an injury, but returned on Tuesday and had 3 assists in 18:27 of time on ice. Sacco said he was fine to play on Thursday.

Thursday will be the first time that Avs defenseman Shane O'Brien, a member of the Predators last season, will play against his former team this season. O'Brien was an important penalty killer for the Predators, as they won the first playoff round in franchise history last season in the first round against Anaheim.

O'Brien ended up departing as a free agent and signing with Colorado in the offseason. O'Brien, who is now with his fifth team in six NHL seasons, had something of a reputation as perhaps a malcontent -- Nashville coach Barry Trotz affectionately referred to him as a "chirper" on Thursday.

O'Brien thanked Nashville for helping to rehab that image.

"I was probably a little surprised," O'Brien said. "I wasn't disappointed. I mean, they gave me a great opportunity to come in and kind of just change my, maybe persona, the way people thought about me around the League. Trotzy was unbelievable with me all year. (General manager David) Poile was great, everybody was great.

"I was a little surprised maybe when they didn't re-sign me, but that's the business side of it. Obviously, no hard feelings. It was a great year and that's the way the business works."
Projected lineup:
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Steve Downie - Ryan O'Reilly - Gabriel Landeskog
Mike Connolly - Mark Olver - Peter Mueller
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Milan Hejduk
Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan Wilson
Matt Hunwick - Stefan Elliott
Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere
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