On November 28, Avalanche fans sighed deeply when early-season revelation David Jones went down with a torn ACL. In just 23 games, Jones had scored ten goals and sixteen points, and had become a 20+ minute-a-game fixture on the right wing of the second line. His season-ending injury meant one less major offensive contributor for a young team still trying to regain its impressive October momentum.
The last player expected to step up and fill Jones' skates was Chris Stewart. From October 30 to November 20, the 22 year-old Avalanche sophomore hadn't scored a single point, and managed only nine total shots on goal. During that ten-game drought, Coach Joe Sacco had reduced Stewart's ice time from fifteen minutes a night to less than ten.
But just before his fellow right winger Jones went down, something started to click for Stewart. On November 23, despite playing under eight minutes, Stewart assisted on a Cody McLeod goal that gave the Avalanche a 3-2 advantage over the Flyers. The team would go on to hold that lead and win 5-4. The next game, an overtime loss to the Predators, Stewart had another assist. Against the Wild on November 27, Stewart scored a goal and assisted on a Paul Stastny power play tally.
Then Jones went down, and the solid Avalanche right wing suddenly seemed as weak as the left.
Coach Sacco moved Stewart into a heavier rotation to fill the hole left by Jones, and he was quickly rewarded. Since the game against the Lightning on November 30, Stewart has scored multiple points in four games out of nine. Not bad for a player who scored just 19 points in 53 games last season. In fact, since the end of his ten-game drought, Stewart has scored 15 points in 13 games, and has fired 39 shots on goal. His ice time now ranges between 18 and 20 minutes a game, more than twice what it was during his dry period.
After a long, unsteady development, Chris Stewart finally seems comfortable in his skates. He's using his size to control the puck better, to hit harder, and to create more scoring chances than he ever has in the past. He's been an invaluable replacement for the injured David Jones, and Coach Sacco has recognized this by rewarding Stewart with more ice time and more time on the power play. Stewart is finally starting to look like the talented power forward the scouts have long predicted he would become.
ADDENDUM: Yahoo Sports has taken notice of Stewart, too. He's now listed as "Hot" (down Beachie) on their Fantasy tracker: