With the woeful Edmonton Oilers coming to town to face a team that has been dominant at home, Sunday afternoon looked like a great opportunity for the Colorado Avalanche to gain some ground in the Western Conference Wildcard race. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan. The Avalanche dropped a 4-2 decision to the Oilers, but more importantly, they might have lost their best defenseman to a serious injury - yet again.
Despite the return of Nathan MacKinnon, the Avalanche were unable to overcome a hat trick from Connor McDavid – and a short bench – in order to hold off a late surge from the Oilers.
Going into the third period with a 2-1 lead on goals from Tyson Jost and Alexander Kerfoot, Colorado was forced to finish the game with only four healthy defenders after Erik Johnson left early in the period with an upper-body injury - Anton Lindholm had already left the game late in the second after crashing into the boards.
The Oilers took their first lead of the game with 6:42 remaining when Ryan Strome beat Semyon Varlamov to make it 3-2. Connor McDavid added an insurance marker – to complete the hattrick and hand the Avs a 4-2 loss.
Semyon Varlamov deserved better in this one. The Avalanche were badly outshot once again, only to have their goaltender keep it close.
“The couple injuries in the back end could hurt us more than just the loss today,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said during his post-game press conference.
Anton Lindholm isn’t that big of a loss, but if Johnson is out for any length of time, the Avalanche are in a lot of trouble. The Avs did not give an update on the injury after the game, Johnson was seen with his left arm wrapped up and JJ Jerez of Mile High Sports suggests that we should not be optimistic about the diagnosis.
With a week remaining before the trade deadline, a serious injury to Johnson could drastically change the plans of Joe Sakic and his front office. Losing their best defender would severely hinder any chance the Avalanche have at a playoff spot, so it would make it a lot easier for Sakic to sell off some assets.
We should hear more about the injuries to Johnson Lindholm, and even Jonathan Bernier - who was replaced by Andrew Hammond as the backup this afternoon - at some point tomorrow.
Up next, the Avalanche travel to Vancouver to take on the Canucks Tuesday night.