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Avalanche: 5 - St. Louis 2
(Game Recaps: Avs: Anyone but Detroit, Mile High Hockey, Mile High Mayhem. Blues: St. Louis Today (who gives "Colin" Stewart a little credit, Blue Note Zone )

Last night the Avs took on the St. Louis Blues, and frankly it was a rather unspectacular affair. The Avs still got an important win, but the game just lacked a ton of energy from the fans down to the players on the ice. At least in my opinion. With Ryan O'Reilly out TJ Galiardi moved over to 3rd line center (Stastny double-shifted the 2nd and 4th lines pretty much all evening) the Avs hole at top-2 LW became painfully obvious.The Avs LWs last night were:

Wolski
McLeod
Tucker
Durno


Granted Galiardi will move back to LW once some of those RWs and centers get healthy, but the injury to O'Reilly has really highlighted how vulnerable the Avs are on the left side. If there's an injury to any Avs LWer or top-3 center the Avs left side becomes exposed, as Galiardi moves over.

 

More after the jump

This isn't to take anything away from Galiardi, who has done an admirable job being the utility man for the Avs, filling in at LW, C, PK and pretty much everywhere he's needed. Hell if Galiardi were a baseball player writers would fall all over themselves calling him "gritty" completely ignoring that he's actually talented. But I think his role this season is best suited as being O'Reilly's wing man on a duel-threat third line.

But the Avs need more scoring depth on the left side for the stretch run and playoffs (if the Avs qualify, don't want to jinx it here.) I don't think the Avs need to break the bank and go for a blockbuster, like Ray Whitney, here but they need someone who can step in and pitch in offensively and gel with Duchene. I'm going to do some research and go over candidates later in the week, but off the top of my head I think Raffi Torres would be a good choice.

With the abundance of RWs the Avs have (Stewart, Yip, Svatos, Hejduk, Jones, Durno/Mercier) it's tempting to think one of them can fill in at LW for the rest of the season. And it's possible this could happen once everyone comes back healthy (My guess would be Yip moving over if this were to happen). But in all reality I think the avs would be better served by getting a true LW.

So who would be odd-man (men) out? Let's assume everyone but Jones comes back healthy after the Olympics (and I don't think that's the most unreasonable assumption), and the Avs do trade for a LW (prospects and a defenseman or something).

Left side: Wolski, LWer, Galiardi, McLeod, Tucker, Durno

Tucker & Durno would be the odd men out here. That's not really a bad thing. Tucker would likely still get shifts because the idea that every forward would stay healthy is a pipe dream, but he'd also see the occasional healthy scratch. I've said my piece on Tucker and I'll leave it at that. My anger with him has greatly subsided, mainly because coach Sacco has put him in a 4th line role and he's getting 10min a night. He's not being forced onto the 2nd line and stunting guys like Duchene anymore, which is all I really ever wanted.


Center: Stastny, Duchene, O'Reilly, Hendricks

No real odd man out here, as this is likely to be the centers, for a long time. If there's an injury, Galiardi moves over. Unless it's Hendricks (like right now) then one of the top 3 doubleshift as Stastny currently does.

Right Wing: Stewart, Hejduk, Yip, Jones, Svatos, Mercier, Durno

At first this looks really bad, but for this season it should be ok (assuming the Avs get that LW). Stewart will be 1st line and Hejduk a solid number 2. Now the question is: Yip, Svats, or Jones on the 3rd line. Svatos is the odd man out, and has been all season. Jones is coming off of an ACL tear, and may not even make it back. If he does I'd like to see him worked into the lineup gradually, no reason to rush it. That leaves Yip as a more than capable 3rd line RWer.Jones would go on the 4th line, and Svatos is likely going to be traded. That means Durno or Mercier can fill in nicely there when necessary (or McLeod, with Tucker moving up to the left).

So here's how the Avs lines would look if they acquired a top-2 LW.

Wolski-Stastny-Stewart
top 2 LW -Duchene-Hejduk
Galiardi-O'Reilly-Yip
McLeod-Hendricks-Jones (with Stastny double-shifting as necessary).

That gives the Avs four really solid lines that they can roll, and there should be enough minutes for everyone. More importantly, it gives the Avs some depth in the face of injuries.