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Who Do The Avalanche Replace Logan O’Connor With On The Third Line?

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The Colorado Avalanche now have a lot of forwards. Which one of them steps up is now the question.

On Sunday, the Avalanche announced that Logan O’Connor will miss the rest of the season, including the playoffs, due to hip surgery. This is the same surgery that Miles Wood had a few years back, so the next time we’ll see him could be training camp in the fall.

Replacing O’Connor won’t be easy. In fact, he’s probably the bottom six forward on the Avalanche that they could least afford to lose. He is their most trusted penalty killer, has the fourth most goals among the forward group, and has the speed to play the way Colorado wants to play. While the Avalanche made a number of additions at the deadline, likely knowing this news was coming, none of them are one-for-one replacements of O’Connor.

Somebody will have to step up though, and I imagine a number of them get the opportunity to do so. Assuming Miles Wood and Ross Colton make up 2/3 of the third line, here’s who is likely to get a chance to replace O’Connor on the other wing.

Zach Parise

Once he gets healthy, whenever that will be, he’ll likely get the first shot. He’s shown he can play both wings, is someone the coaching staff trusts in the defensive zone, and he’ll score those grimy goals around the net.

Parise went on the trip with the team, so there’s a chance he’ll play at some point, but from what I saw of him on Monday, he still looked like he was in the early stages of recovering. From what we’ve he’s shown so far, he looks like he’s got plenty left in the tank, but a long playoff run from a 39 year old might be a lot to ask for.

Yakov Trenin

With no Parise, Trenin started his first game on the right wing with Colton and Wood, and it’s something you know they’ll want to continue trying. Trenin has something that none of the other options really have, and that’s size. He was immediately trusted to play over 15 minutes in his first game, so you know the staff already believes he can fill that role.

The question with Trenin will be whether or not he eventually settles into that 4C spot. He hasn’t played center consistently in years, but the Avalanche like his ability to win face-offs. It’s something they’ll likely experiment with down the stretch.

He’s a few years removed from scoring 17 goals for the Nashville Predators, so he’s got some touch around the net. The Avalanche want to be difficult to play against with their bottom six, and he would certainly bring that to the third line.

Brandon Duhaime

If Monday’s practice is any indication, Duhaime might find himself in the top six for a brief period while the team returns to health. That’s far from ideal, but just a stop-gap solution until Artturi Lehkonen returns.

Duhaime can move pretty well for a big guy and will throw his body around. However, he’s fairly limited offensively, with just 18 points in his last 114 games. A third line role for him is probably asking for a bit too much, but I could see him getting an opportunity to show he can hang down the stretch

Nikolai Kovalenko

The ultimate wild card, because nobody knows what he’ll look like in the NHL. He plays with energy, can play both wings, and has skill, but can he adjust to the North American game right away? And will he earn the trust of the staff to play in the top nine (or play at all)? With so many veterans on the team, it would seem unlikely that a rookie wins the job, but if he plays well and shows he can stick, Jared Bednar will play him. He threw Alex Newhook and Sampo Ranta right into the playoffs as rookies, so we know he’s not afraid to do it.

The Avalanche will be in Calgary on Tuesday night to take on the Flames. I would guess Trenin will be right back on the third line wing, but we’ll likely see a whole slew of combinations during the final 17 games of the regular season to see who fits best.

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