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Avs persevere despite rash of injuries

by Rick Sadowski
CENTENNIAL, Colo. – The Colorado Avalanche trainer's room is beginning to resemble a hospital ward.

With 10 players sidelined with injuries, including No. 1 goalie Craig Anderson, four regular defensemen and three of the Avalanche's top-six forwards, it would be natural for players to wonder if the team is jinxed.

"I think sometimes it may feel like that," defenseman John-Michael Liles told "It's never easy, but it gives other guys opportunities to step in and fill the void. At the same time, it has to be up to each and every guy to step up. It can't be, 'Well, this guy goes down so that guy has to step in and fill his shoes.' It's got to be everyone, not just one player."

Anderson has missed six games with a right knee injury and didn't accompany the Avalanche for this weekend's two-game trip that includes Friday's visit to Columbus and Saturday's game in Detroit.

Left wings Peter Mueller (concussion) and David Koci (broken jaw) have missed all 14 of Colorado's games so far after getting hurt in the preseason; defenseman and captain Adam Foote (concussion) is expected to miss his eighth game in a row Friday but could return Saturday; left wing David Jones (hand) is hopeful of playing against Columbus; defensemen Kyle Cumiskey and Kyle Quincey remain out with concussions, and defenseman Ryan Wilson is out with a leg injury.

Left wings TJ Galiardi (broken wrist) and David Van Der Gulik (torn knee ligament) joined the list Tuesday against Calgary.

"It was like, 'You've got to be kidding me," said Foote, who skated for the first time this week after getting injured Oct. 21 against San Jose. "But there was a time several years ago when we lost seven defensemen in seven days. I don't think anyone could top that. That's unheard of."

The Avalanche blue line looked green against the Flames with four rookies: Colby Cohen and Kevin Shattenkirk, both of whom made their NHL debuts in the past week, and Jonas Holos and David Liffiton.

It's why general manager Greg Sherman acquired fourth-year NHL defenseman Ryan O'Byrne, 26, from Montreal on Thursday. The Avalanche sent forward prospect Michael Bournival to the Canadiens in exchange for the 6-foot-5, 230-pound O'Byrne, who is expected to play Friday.

O'Byrne's arrival takes some of the pressure off Foote to make a hasty return.

"My head feels great," he said. "As far as conditioning, after taking 20 days off it's going to take a while. We'll see how it goes. Skating is one thing, but I couldn't do any off-ice conditioning before. We'll see how long it takes to get into game shape. You miss 20 days, it's not quite like starting over, but it's close.

"I guess it probably would be easy to make a quick decision considering we have four 'D' out right now, but it's a long year too. You don't want to come back too early, especially with what I'm coming off of. You have to be in good enough shape to protect yourself. We'll discuss it with the training staff and the docs and the coaching staff."

The Avalanche lost 352 man games to injuries and illnesses last season and still managed to finish second in the Northwest Division and qualify for a Western Conference playoff berth.

"We're banged up right now, but it's no excuse," right wing Chris Stewart said. "The same thing happened last year. Maybe not as many guys, but the rest of us have to step it up and get it done. We're facing some adversity, backs against the wall and all that stuff. It's a test of character.

"It leaves you wondering, but the guys who are getting serious minutes need to take on more responsibility and step up and be leaders."
"We're banged up right now, but it's no excuse.  The same thing happened last year. Maybe not as many guys, but the rest of us have to step it up and get it done. We're facing some adversity, backs against the wall and all that stuff. It's a test of character." -- Chris Stewart
The Avalanche will take a 7-6-1 record and 4-2-1 road mark into Friday's game at Columbus.

"We're hanging in there," Foote said. "It shows what kind of character you have as a group. We have to make sure that we keep plugging away. Get through this not too bad and get guys back ... if we approach it and deal with it the right way, it's only going to help us towards the end."
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