The Colorado Avalanche traveled to the Wells Fargo Center Monday night to face a struggling Philadelphia Flyers team. The Flyers were losers of 12 of the last 13 entering the contest, with the least effective power play in the league, converting on only 14.1 percent of opportunities.
But the depleted Avalanche lineup, already losers of two of the first three games on this four-game road trip, couldn’t handle the Flyers. Philadelphia put 37 shots on goal, converting on two of their three power-play opportunities, to beat the Avalanche 5-3.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
The Injury Avalanche Fans Have Been Dreading
It wasn’t the loss to a struggling team, or the bad ending to a subpar road trip, that Avalanche fans will remember from this contest. It was the upper body injury to the team’s superstar forward, Nathan MacKinnon.
Partway through the first period, MacKinnon was ridden into the boards along Philadelphia’s bench by Flyers’ forward Scott Laughton. It wasn’t an especially hard hit, but MacKinnon’s lower back caught the top of the boards awkwardly. He tried to continue to play but was in obvious distress. With the period almost over, he left the bench and headed to the locker room. He did not return and was reported out for the rest of the game with a lower back injury. He is currently listed as day-to-day. That status will likely be updated after the team returns to Denver.
MacKinnon, who had an assist in the contest, joins four of the other top-six forwards and two of the top-six defensemen on the list of players currently suffering from injuries. This is the full list of Colorado’s walking wounded:
|Shane Bowers (F)||Upper Body||Expected out until at least 12/23|
|Bowen Byram (D)||Lower Body||Expected out until at least 12/7|
|Jean-Luc Foudy (F)||Lower Body||Expected out until at least 12/7|
|Darren Helm (F)||Hip||Expected out until at least 12/13|
|* Gabriel Landeskog (F)||Knee||Expected out until at least 1/12|
|* Artturi Lehkonen (F)||Upper Body||Expected out until at least 12/7|
|Kurtis MacDermid (D)||Lower Body||Expected out until at least 12/27|
|* Nathan MacKinnon (F)||Upper Body||Day-to-day|
|Josh Manson (D)||Lower Body||Expected out until at least 12/17|
|* Valeri Nichushkin (F)||Ankle||Expected out until at least 12/7|
|* Evan Rodrigues (F)||Lower Body||Expected out until at least 12/15|
Heading into the game, the Avalanche had lost a total of 117 man-games so far this season. Mikko Rantanen, who had a spectacular goal in the loss, is the lone remaining forward from the top six still standing.
As is clear from the chart above, the Avalanche hope to get several of their players back in the coming weeks. For the team and fans alike, help can’t come quickly enough.
Newhook Heating Up
In an effort to spread the wealth from his top line, Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar moved Rantanen to the second line, in the hope of anchoring that group and improving its offensive threat. The move paid immediate dividends with Alex Newhook notching two goals on the evening.
Related: Avalanche’s Newhook Steps Up Scoring
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The 21-year-old scored the opening goal of the game on a Colorado power-play and the Avalanche’s last goal with less than two minutes to play; only 36 seconds after Rantanen’s coast-to-coast effort. That second score brought the Avalanche within a goal (4-3) and gave Newhook’s club a fighting chance. They saw that chance evaporate when Travis Konecny found the empty net a few seconds later to put the game on ice.
For Newhook, they were his fifth and sixth goals in 23 games played. The native of St. John’s, Newfoundland has been heating up, with four of his six goals coming in his last nine games. He’ll continue to be an important piece of the puzzle as the club waits for players to get healthy.
Flyers Show Some Much-Needed Life
The Flyers got off to a terrific start to the season, winning five of their first seven games. Then the season came off the rails, with Philadelphia, a team in rebuilding mode, winning only three of its next 18 games. The team’s average of 2.3 goals per game so far this season ranks 31st in the league.
At the same time, the Flyers’ defense has given the club a chance in many of their contests, allowing an average of only 24.2 shots over their previous five games. The defense was solid again, with an excellent performance from goaltender Carter Hart, who stopped 29 of 32 Avalanche shots. It wasn’t a flawless night, but it was good enough to win.
Up Next for the Avalanche
These two teams will face each other again on Tuesday, Dec. 13 in Denver. Between now and then the Avalanche will play two home games and one away game, beginning with a challenging contest at Ball Arena against the Boston Bruins Wednesday night.
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Hockey dad, beer league hockey captain, rabid Avalanche fan. Author of five novels for young adults, including The Scar Boys, Life in a Fishbowl, and Hard Wired. Lives in Littleton, Colorado with two middle school-age kids, one awesome wife, and three pets. Voted least likely to break 100 on a golf course.