I wasn't going to write anything on the Brett Clark injury, because I think it's been covered pretty well already (in case you missed it, Clark suffered a dislocated shoulder on Tuesday and is out indefinitely). He'll be replaced in the lineup by Karlis Skrastins (insert clever tagline here). For all the piling on we do of Skrastins, he's actually been generally solid of late - not quite $2.4 million solid, but we can't have everything.
Still, Clark's absence leaves a huge sinkhole of ice time to fill in all categories.
Clark is one of the two key contributors here, both in ice time and in scoring. There's about 3 minutes a game that will need to be replaced. Finger, Liles and Hannan are all candidates to fill Clark's shoes...er, skates. Or, could we see a return of a forward to the point? (I hope not). Either way, does this injury take Liles off the trade block?
The penalty kill is probably the toughest loss. Clark leads the team in PK TOI and leads the team in blocked shots. In fact, even if he doesn't play in another game this year (which is sounding likely) he may still lead the team in blocks at the end of the year. With him out, your four penalty killers are Hannan, Finger, Sauer and Skrastins. Not a bad unit. But, if one of those guys is in the box, who gets the call? Leopold? I'm not sure that I'm excited by that at all.
Clark leads all our defensemen in even strength scoring. This is an area where the team already has guys (Leopold and Liles) who are perfectly capable of filling some of the offensive void...but we've been not-so-patiently waiting for that to happen all season long. Defensively, this puts more pressure on guys like Finger, Sauer and Skrastins - guys who have generally done well, but might not be up to the challenge of increased ice time against the other teams top lines (a job Clark had been sharing with Sauer).
While Clark isn't the favorite among a lot of Avalanche fans, his jack-of-all-trades skillset makes him an extremely valuable player and a potentially devastating loss. He is the only Colorado defenseman currently used in any situation of the game. Hannan is probably the closest to Clark in that regard, and I personally think he could be effective if given more minutes on the powerplay. Hannan aside (he's already logging some large minutes as it is), no one player is going to replace Clark. It's going to be a group effort and is likely to push a few players beyond their comfort levels. It will challenge our coaching staff as well, but that thought is just too depressing to dwell on.