Avs overcoming loss of Johnson by adapting
Barrie, Holden doing their part to keep blue line clicking
With Erik Johnson out because of a lower-body injury, the Avalanche has adapted on defense — and kept winning.
In victories over St. Louis on Wednesday and Nashville on Friday, Colorado plugged Andrew Bodnarchuk, claimed on waivers from Columbus on Tuesday, into Johnson’s spot and into what’s considered the top pairing with Francois Beauchemin at even strength. But the Avs didn’t use Bodnarchuk on the penalty kill or power play, so his minutes haven’t been eye-catching.
Beauchemin logged 27 minutes of ice time against the Predators, Bodnarchuk 22. Tyson Barrie (29:01) and Nick Holden (28:09) were out even more, and Barrie scored the tiebreaking powerplay goal during the third period of the 5-3 win. He now has seven goals this season and is on pace to at least match his totals of 12 and 13 the past two seasons.
Holden had two assists against the Predators.
“You never want to see a guy like E.J. go down. He’s kind of a cornerstone and plays so many big minutes for us,” Barrie said. “But this is a chance for other guys to step up. … Holdie and I are getting to see more of the top guys and stuff like that, so it’s exciting.”
Said Holden: “The more we play together, the more in sync we are, just making plays, knowing where each other’s going to be, reading off each other. And it’s being able to talk to each other and getting more help. On the bench, if I made a bad play or a bad read, he can come to me and say, ‘Hey, let’s try this,’ and vice versa.
“I feel like our game is in a good spot, and it’s getting better as we progress here and play more together.”
The Avalanche didn’t practice Saturday before leaving for Chicago, where it will face the Blackhawks on Sunday night. So there were no updates on Johnson and Brad Stuart (back), but neither is likely to be available for the game. Brandon Gormley, who cleared waivers Friday, remains on the official roster and was a healthy scratch against Nashville.
“They’ve both been playing well for a while,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said of Barrie and Holden. “The only game Tyson was soso was against Calgary, but he was sick before that and it was his first game back. Other than (that), he’s been really solid for us.”
The Avalanche has a three-game winning steak, and heading into Nashville’s game at Arizona on Saturday night, had moved into the final wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Predators and Avalanche both had 45 points, but Colorado had more regulation and overtime wins.