Patrick Roy's somber postgame mood Saturday afternoon wasn't meant to downplay what the Avalanche had just accomplished. With Semyon Varlamov making 47 saves in a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks, the Avalanche clinched a playoff berth, reached a startling 100 points and took over second place in the NHL's Central Division — all with eight games remaining in the regular season.
But possibly more significant in the long run, Colorado leading scorer Matt Duchene suffered a knee injury on his first shift of the game in a collision with teammate Jamie McGinn. In pain, he was able to skate off the ice, but he went to the dressing room and was done for the day.
Roy indicated the team wouldn't get more definitive word until Duchene underwent an MRI, probably Sunday, but the coach seemed to be at least bracing for possible bad news.
"I'm always a positive person," Roy said. "Obviously, I believe that he's going to be back for the playoffs. This is the way I am. But at the same time, we lost Peter Forsberg after the second round the year we win the Cup (in 2001), and a team is a team. You have to go out there and play hard and find ways to win games. That's what we're going to continue to do."
Duchene's 70 points lead the Avalanche, and his 23 goals are tied with Nathan MacKinnon for third on the team, behind Ryan O'Reilly's 26 and Gabe Landeskog's 24.
Roy said he had spoken with Duchene. "Obviously, he was disappointed," the Avalanche coach said. "He was playing so well right now. It's not good news for him, and it's not good news for us as well. It's been that way all year. We always try to find ways to win hockey games, and we're going to have to continue to find ways to win hockey games."
The short-handed Avalanche knocked off the Sharks thanks to Varlamov's work in the net, plus a goal and an assist from John Mitchell — who returned to the lineup after missing four games with a back injury — and goals from Paul Stastny and Cody McLeod.
The two points enabled the Avalanche (47-21-6) to leap over idle Chicago into second place in the division, which is significant because the two teams almost certainly are headed for a No. 2 vs. No. 3 opening-round playoff matchup, with home-ice advantage going to the division runner-up. St. Louis has command of the division.
Also notable was that O'Reilly drew his first penalty minutes of the season at 8:49 of the third, for playing the puck with a broken stick. Colorado successfully killed off that minor, though, to cling to the 3-2 lead. And Varlamov's victory was his 37th of the season, pulling him out of a tie with the Sharks' Antti Niemi for the league lead. Niemi didn't play Saturday, and backup Alex Stalock made 19 saves for San Jose.
The Avalanche isn't practicing Sunday and next plays at Columbus on Tuesday.
Terry Frei: firstname.lastname@example.org