The Colorado Avalanche have followed a five-game winning streak with three straight losses, and the past two losses were especially painful.
In a span of 48 hours, Colorado has lost its top goaltender, a first-line forward and a third-line grinder to significant injuries that will keep all three out for multiple weeks. The latest injury, to winger Mikko Rantanen, is a tough blow for a team that was a win away from taking over the top spot in the Western Conference over the weekend.
Now the Avalanche are limping into their matchup against the New York Islanders on Wednesday night, which wraps up a five-game homestand that hasn’t gone well. Colorado blew a two-goal lead to Washington last week, dropped an outdoor game in the final minute to the struggling Los Angeles Kings and fell in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.
Colorado rallied to take a point against the Lightning but will be without Rantanen because of an upper-body injury for “weeks,” coach Jared Bednar said after Monday’s game. Rantanen was hurt in the third period when he was tripped into the boards. He came up holding his left shoulder and went to the locker room.
His injury comes after forward Matt Calvert and goalie Philipp Grubauer sustained lower-body injuries against the Kings. Nazem Kadri, the team’s second-line center, is out at least another month with a lower-body injury sustained at Minnesota on Feb. 9.
The Avalanche called up forward Martin Kaut from the Colorado Eagles of the AHL on Tuesday, and he is expected to make his NHL debut against the Islanders.
“When we start racking (injuries) up with Grubauer, Kadri, Calvert and now Mikko, the other guys have to step up,” Bednar said. “It’s a great opportunity. We have to find a way to carve out wins the way we did earlier in the year. It’s going to get tougher and tougher, but hopefully we can get those guys healthy and come back to join our team as soon as possible.
“Guys are going to get opportunities and call-ups, and more ice time for guys that have been here a while wanting more ice time, we’ll see what they got.”
The Avalanche face a New York team struggling to find offense on its four-game road trip that ends in Denver. The Islanders were shut out in their first two games and managed just one goal in a loss at Arizona on Monday night.
That goal was created by defenseman Andy Greene, who made his debut with New York after coming over in a trade with New Jersey. His shot from the point was deflected in by Anthony Beauvillier.
Despite the loss, scoring was something to build on.
“We got a goal,” coach Barry Trotz said after the game. “It probably eases things a little bit. If you go another game without a goal, you start to wonder what it’s going to take.”
Wednesday will be the first time Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov will see his old team in Denver since signing with New York last summer after eight seasons with Colorado. He made 32 saves in a 1-0 home win over the Avalanche on Jan. 6, his second shutout of the season.
Varlamov is just 2-6-1 since that victory, including losses in his past two starts despite allowing just three goals on 75 shots.
–Field Level Media