Ryan O’Reilly is back in Colorado, back at Avalanche practice, where he should be. After passing his physicals yesterday, O’Reilly started today out centering the third line, with Mitchell and Hejduk on his wings. I prefer Mitchell at center (and I think he obviously prefers it there as well), but at the same time, he needs to be in the top nine, and O’Reilly is another center behind Duchene and Stastny.
You can watch O’Reilly address the media here. I think O’Reilly looks a little uncomfortable, especially when addressing the contract situation, and I think it’s clear that his rift with the organization hasn’t really been bridged over yet. Still, he sounds prepared to give his all and try and help the team, and that should be our focus for now.
Both Erik Johnson and Ryan Wilson participated in practice today, wearing orange no-contact jerseys. (Wilson was only there for part of the practice, but there nonetheless.) Coach Sacco said that they will both be on the roadtrip, although there is no scheduled or planned date yet for their respective returns.
J.S. Giguere has left the team and will be back Tuesday night in Detroit. He will be attending his mother’s funeral. (No one has been officially called up yet, but I’m assuming that Calvin Pickard will find himself backing up Semyon Varlamov in Columbus.) In other personal news (this is certainly more joyous of course), Matt Hunwick’s wife gave birth yesterday.
Peter McNab had mentioned during the game against Calgary that the Mrs. Hunwick’s labor would be induced after the game, and I’m very glad to hear that everything went well.
The Avs have to beat Columbus. The Jackets are in 15th spot in the standings right now, and while they are a professional team that cannot be overlooked, the Avs simply have to be better. There is no way this team makes the playoffs if they don’t collect wins in the final two games against Columbus this season-by my count they need to go 18-10-1 as it is. The Avs are (should be) a better team. Columbus will be missing both Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski, the two defensemen who eat up about 28 minutes per game, as well as Brandon Dubinsky.
I expect Varls to be in net, and the same six defensemen to be in the lineup that were in against San Jose and Calgary. I’m guessing that Mark Olver will find himself sitting in the pressbox with Aaron Palushaj (still don’t like him getting scratched) and Stefan Elliott, even though that means the fourth line will operate with three wingers in McLeod, Kobasew, and Bordeleau.