Avalanche-Blue Jackets Preview
While it’s been a bumpy ride for the road-challenged Colorado
Avalanche, Ryan O’Reilly should give them a big boost going
The 22-year-old center is expected to make his season debut
Sunday as the Avalanche kick off a three-game trek against the
NHL-worst Columbus Blue Jackets.
O’Reilly, who led Colorado with 37 assists and 55 points last
season, is set to take the ice for the first time following a
lengthy holdout. The restricted free agent signed an offer sheet
with Calgary before Colorado matched the two-year, $10 million
“I’m just so excited now to be playing hockey and be back with
these guys,” O’Reilly said. “I can’t believe how nice everyone has
been about it and how great they’ve been to just accept me back –
it’s like I haven’t left. It just shows the character of this
“Hopefully I can contribute as best I can. It will probably take
a little while to get back in the swing of things and catch up to
the speed of the game.”
The Avalanche (8-8-3) announced the signing during the first
period of Thursday’s thrilling 5-4 victory over the Flames.
Colorado trailed 3-0 after the first 20 minutes and entered the
third down 4-2 before storming back.
“That was great news,” 20-year-old captain Gabriel Landeskog
said of O’Reilly’s signing. “I know there were 24 guys who were
happy to have him back.”
Landeskog had a goal and two assists while Matt Duchene recorded
two points, including the go-ahead score 10:52 into the third.
“It was time to get back to what makes us a good team,” Duchene
told the club’s official website. “We had a great second period. I
think after we got those two goals we really believed that we were
going to win the game. You could feel it in here. It’s a great
feeling right now. It’s one of the best Avalanche wins in recent
memory, that’s for sure.”
While Colorado improved to 6-2-1 at home, it’s struggled in
opposing arenas. The Avalanche have been outscored 37-22 in going
2-6-2 on the road, where they’ve posted a league-low 65.1
Colorado, though, has taken 10 of 13 from the Blue Jackets
(5-12-4), including a 4-0 win Jan. 24. Semyon Varlamov made 33
saves while Duchene scored twice and added an assist. The
Avalanche, who are 7-2-1 when Duchene posts at least one point,
have gone 5-1-0 in Columbus since 2009-10.
The Blue Jackets return home mired in a 1-5-2 stretch after
suffering a 4-3 overtime loss at NHL-leading Chicago on Friday.
“Regardless of who it is, it’s still a loss,” coach Todd
Richards said. “We still just aren’t quite good enough. We battled
and competed, which is what we should do, but we’ve got to find
ways to come out on top.”
Artem Anisimov scored in his return from a three-game absence
due to an upper-body injury and fellow forward Vinny Prospal added
his team-leading seventh goal. Columbus, though, was again without
centers Brandon Dubinsky (knee) and Derick Brassard (upper body) as
well as defensemen Jack Johnson (shoulder), James Wisniewski
(broken foot) and John Moore (upper body).
“We did some pretty good things to be able to stick with those
guys, but we’re not doing enough to get that next goal,” Steve
Mason said after making 31 saves. “We knew it would be a real test
for us because we had a lot of guys out.”
The Blue Jackets could catch a break if Colorado goes with
Varlamov, who is 0-6-1 with a with a 3.73 goals-against average
over seven road starts. Varlamov, however, went 2-0-0 with one
shutout and a 0.96 GAA at Nationwide Arena last season.