After an impressive stretch that saw the Colorado Avalanche lose only once in regulation between January 8th and February 12th, the Avs have now lost three straight games and have fallen into third place in the NHL’s Central Division. What’s more concerning than the losses though, is the toll the games have been taking on the team’s lineup.
Monday night, the Avalanche played really well in their 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the result of the game is the secondary story. Midway through the second period, star winger Mikko Rantanen was breaking to the net at full speed when he was tripped by Lightning defender Erik Cernak. Rantanen went into the boards shoulder-first and was in obvious pain. He went directly to the team’s dressing room and didn’t return to the game.
After the game, head coach Jared Bednar used a phrase that has become regular for him — he said Rantanen will be out “weeks”.
The Avalanche rarely release in-depth injury Rantanen is expected to have an MRI later today so the team can get a better handle on the recovery timetable. Some are worried that the Avs will be without their second-best player until at least the end of the regular season. It’s likely the type of injury that will allow him to skate long before he’s ready to take contact and return to the lineup.
Rantanen now joins Nazem Kadri and Matt Calvert who were both lost for “weeks” over the previous few games. That’s three key members of Colorado’s top-nine forward group that might all be out until the start of the playoffs, or possibly longer. To add to that, starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer was injured in Saturday’s Stadium Series game and will also be out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. The team said he is getting treatment and will be re-evaluated later this week but there is really no sense at all of how long he will need to rest.
With only a few days remaining before the NHL’s trade deadline, Joe Sakic is going to need to make as quick decision as to whether or not these injuries will impact the way he views the season. Does he use them as an excuse to swing a big deal, or does he have faith that his roster can weather the storm until the guys get healthy?
Due to their status as contenders and the fact that they have a ton of salary cap space, the Avalanche have been tied to just about every major trade deadline rumor. From rentals like Chris Kreider, J-G Pageau and Joe Thornton, to bigger deals involving guys like Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Drouin and Kyle Connor, the Avalanche rumor mill has been working overtime.
With the losses to the lineup, it’s hard to see a scenario in which Sakic stands pat before the deadline. Whether it’s a blockbuster or simply some depth help, we are likely to see a few new faces to help make up for the incredible bad luck the team has seen over the past two weeks.