Asked to find a silver lining in missing 26 games this season due to a broken right forearm, Colorado Avalanche
center Paul Stastny
searched and searched.
He came up empty.
"No, not really," Stastny told NHL.com Thursday morning following the Avs' morning skate at the Prudential Center. "Stuff happens. Hopefully down the road it won't happen, but it's been a tough year for me and for everyone. We've had so many different injuries and everybody has been playing with different players. It's been a tough all-around season."
Stastny played Tuesday night in Atlanta for the first time since Dec. 23 when Olli Jokinen
's slap shot hit him square on the forearm, breaking the bone.
"It was an unfortunate thing," the 23-year-old American center said. "Just a blocked shot and the puck was on edge, in the perfect spot."
After leading Colorado with 31 points in 34 games before he got in the path of Jokinen's slapper, Stastny returns to the Avalanche when it appears, for all intents and purposes, that they are out of the Western Conference playoff race.
Colorado entered Thursday's game against the New Jersey Devils
last in the conference with 57 points. The Avs were only eight points out of the eighth spot, but climbing seven teams in the last 21 games is probably not going to happen.
That said, with Stastny back in the fold now, the Avalanche at least have a ray of hope. They were 17-16-1 before he got hurt and just 11-15 without him, including a paltry 4-9 record in January. They lost, 4-3, in Atlanta on Tuesday night.
"We missed him so much in certain areas like penalty kill, power play, faceoffs and in the defensive zone playing against the other teams' top line. That's a lot for one guy to handle, but he's one of those guys that is durable enough, smart enough and good enough to handle all those roles."
-- Colorado coach Tony Granato
"He's one of those guys you can't wait to get back in your lineup," Colorado coach Tony Granato
told NHL.com. "We missed him so much in certain areas like penalty kill, power play, faceoffs and in the defensive zone playing against the other teams' top line. That's a lot for one guy to handle, but he's one of those guys that is durable enough, smart enough and good enough to handle all those roles."
Stastny looked like he fit right in during Tuesday's game. He set up Chris Stewart
for a breakaway on his first shift and assisted on Milan Hejduk
's power-play goal late in the first period by setting up the backdoor play, freeing Hejduk for a slam dunk goal.
He wound up playing 24:20, the most minutes any forward on either side played in the game. He played 6:45 on the power play and another 3:12 shorthanded.
"Obviously his hands were there," Granato said, "and we played him 20-plus minutes, so his conditioning was good."
Stastny, though, said he was favoring his right side at least early in the game. It got better as he went along, but he is still trying to feel the game again.
"I was a little cautious out there, but as the game goes on you test it in different ways and when you're not expecting a hit that's when you really know how it feels," Stastny said. "As the game wore on I used it more, but the one thing is everyday it is getting better and better. Sooner or later I'll be feeling like it's normal again."