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Avs' Sherman content with quiet day

by Rick Sadowski
DENVERColorado Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman was willing to listen to possible trade scenarios Monday, but he wasn't all that interested in making any more deals.

"We did what we needed to do about a week ago," Sherman said after the NHL trading deadline passed. "I feel last week we addressed what we needed to do and now we're looking to finish the season here on a positive note."

Colorado's lone trade Monday involved minor league defensemen. The Avalanche acquired Shawn Belle from Edmonton in exchange for Kevin Montgomery.

But the Avalanche, which has lost 13 of 14 games to fall out of playoff contention, made two major deals 10 days ago.

Sherman acquired defenseman Erik Johnson, center Jay McClement and a conditional first-round draft pick from St. Louis on Feb. 19 in exchange for right wing Chris Stewart, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and a conditional second-round selection.

On Feb. 18, he acquired goalie Brian Elliott from Ottawa in exchange for goalie Craig Anderson.

"Erik Johnson is a 22-year-old defenseman who we feel is going to be a big part of our blue line for many years to come," Sherman said. "Jay McClement has some strong NHL experience and we were looking to address another area we need to work on in terms of our special teams. We look at Jay to be a big part of that, and obviously the draft pick. We certainly feel strongly about the players that we added, and certainly there's a cost in doing a trade like that."

Sherman said the Avalanche would use the remaining six weeks in the regular season to determine if Elliott, who will be eligible for restricted free agency, fits into the team's future.

"It's a situation for us to have a look at Brian down the final stretch here to see what he can do," Sherman said. "At the end of the season we'll assess what direction we take in relation to that. It just gives us an opportunity to look at Brian, and it gave him a change of scenery."

A number of Avalanche players had been mentioned in trade rumors, including defenseman John-Michael Liles, who had repeatedly said he wanted to stay in Colorado. Liles, who has next year left on a contract that carries a $4.2 million salary cap hit, is the team's fourth-leading scorer with six goals and 35 assists in 63 games.

Sherman wouldn't address rumors, saying: "I feel very strongly about what transpired about 10 days ago and I have a lot of confidence in the players that are in that room. We're going to … go into the last part of the season and see how this group comes together."

Sherman also expressed confidence in head coach Joe Sacco, essentially saying he would return next season.

"The reality is Joe has done an outstanding job given the adversity and the challenges that we've faced," said Sherman, whose team has lost 322 man games to injuries and illnesses. "When you look at the pieces that haven't been at his disposal in terms of the players going down with these injuries -- not just one or two games but long periods of time -- it gets to a point where it's hard to overcome. You're talking about a coach who a year ago was a finalist for the Jack Adams (Trophy). I have the utmost confidence in Joe Sacco and his coaching staff."

The Avalanche finished with 95 points last season and qualified for the Western Conference playoffs, but the team is in 14th place this year with just one win since Jan. 26.

Left wing Peter Mueller, who had 20 points in 15 games last year following a late-season trade with Phoenix, suffered a concussion in a preseason game and has yet to play this year. The Avalanche also is without forwards Tomas Fleischmann (blood clots in his lungs) and TJ Galiardi (forearm surgery), along with defensemen Ryan O'Byrne (facial lacerations), Adam Foote (torn quadriceps muscle), Kyle Quincey (shoulder surgery) and Kyle Cumiskey (whiplash).

"Injuries are a part of our game, but having said that, when you lose five regular guys to season-ending injuries, it's a situation that's pretty tough to overcome," Sherman said. "The level of adversity that we've had to deal with in relation to man games lost is something that I would not expect when you're looking at your offseason and you're planning your board and you're building your team, especially the team that we have in place.

"You certainly don't sit there and say, 'Well, in the event we have five season-ending injuries …' It catches up to you. But I think our coaching staff has done an outstanding job. They've never used it as an excuse and our players don't use it as an excuse, but it is a reality of our situation. It's part of the game, there is no doubt about that. We have to find ways to overcome it."
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