Northwest: Avalanche’s newest acquisitions having an impact

By Blake Benzel

Photo: Newly-acquired left winger Jamie McGinn celebrates a goal in Colorado’s win over Minnesota last night (courtesy of

Vincent Muzik/Icon SMI)

The Colorado Avalanche may have been without the services of Steve Downie on Sunday due to a shoulder injury, but his effect on the Avalanche has already been immense.

Since Downie arrived on the scene, the Avalanche have gone 5-2-0 and outscored their opponents 20-12, with Downie having been a large part of this success with seven points and a plus-seven rating over during this stretch. Despite the solid numbers from Downie, there’s the sense that his line with Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly hasn’t even scratched the surface of what they can do on the ice.

[As a line], it took us a while to get some chemistry going,” Downie told fans in a Q & A session before the Avalanche hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night. “There’s a lot more to come from us. We haven’t reached our potential yet but we’re definitely in the right direction.”

The idea that they haven’t reached their potential yet should be something that makes Avalanche fans absolutely giddy, as the line has accumulated 21 points over the last seven games and accounted for six of the team’s 20 goals over that time. The points aren’t all that Downie has brought to the team, however. He’s brought a different feel to the locker room and a different edge on the ice than what the team has been used to.

You could tell there was a little bit different feeling in the room,” Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco told the Denver Post after his team’s 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. “I think that’s par for the course anytime a new player comes in. But it does give your team a lift…[Downie] does have a presence out there physically. He plays the game hard, and he was energetic on the bench. I think he gave us some life (Wednesday), no doubt.”

While the Avalanche had grit on their blueline, the acquisition of Downie (as well as Jamie McGinn, who the Avalanche traded for on Feb. 27) gave Colorado a much needed mix of grit and skill that previously only Landeskog brought to the table.

I’d say grittiness is what I can bring to this line,” Downie told fans on Thursday. “Hard work, give [my linemates] the puck as much as I can.”

It’s that attitude that is going to serve Downie and the Avalanche quite well down the stretch. While his first six games have likely raised the expectations of Downie’s stay in Colorado, not to mention the comparisons to Darcy Tucker by coach Sacco, Downie has already had a positive effect on the Avalanche, one that looks to be continuing as they make a bid for their first playoff appearance since the 2009-10 season.

Northwest Division Notes

Calgary FlamesThe Flames had a rough weekend, going 0-1-1 against the Anaheim Ducks, who are directly behind them in the standings, and the Dallas Stars, who are now five points ahead of them in the standings. The Flames are now three points back from the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche split their back-to-back games this weekend, dropping a 5-1 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday before Jamie McGinn scored twice in Colorado’s 2-0 win over the Minnesota Wild. … Steve Downie did not play in Colorado’s win over the Wild with a shoulder injury sustained in their 5-1 loss to Pittsburgh.

Edmonton Oilers
Taylor Hall may miss time with a shoulder injury sustained in the team’s 3-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Friday. … Defenseman Nick Schultz has played two games for the Oilers, with one assist and an even rating.

Minnesota Wild
Steven Kampfer made his Wild debut on Sunday against the Avalanche. Kampfer was a minus-one, had one shot and played 21:47. … Minnesota signed prospect Charlie Coyle to an entry-level contract on Thursday. Coyle has 12 goals and 12 assists in 16 games for the St. John’s Sea Dogs in the QMJHL this season. … Goaltender Niklas Backstrom is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a groin injury sustained on Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens.

Vancouver Canucks
Zack Kassian is fitting in very well with the Canucks. Kassian has 17 hits in three games with Vancouver. … Vancouver dropped their lone game this weekend on Saturday, losing to the Buffalo Sabres 5-3.

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