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Matt Duchene out 3-4 weeks with ankle injury; how will Avalanche react?

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Matt Duchene's injury for the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night was a ghastly little sight: His ankle bending in a way that ankles aren't meant to bend.

He was ruled out for Thursday night's game against the Nashville Predators; this morning, the Avs clarified that that he'll miss 3-4 weeks with an ankle injury that will not require surgery.

The good news is that it's not his knee again. That bad news is …well, Matt Duchene has just been removed from the Avalanche lineup for up to a month while they're in a live-or-death struggle on the playoff bubble; and if it's a month, then it's basically the rest of the regular season.

That the Avalanche have been able to hang in the West without significant offensive contributions from Duchene (26 points in 48 games) and Milan Hejduk (34 points in 67 games) is both unforeseen and remarkable. (Hejduk was actually dropped to the fourth line recently.)

It's been a really rough go for Duchene this season, by far his worst as a pro. This is the first time injuries have derailed a campaign for him. Colorado's gotten so much out of the Ryan O'Reilly/Gabe Landeskog group that they've been able to overcome Duchene scoring 1 goal and 1 assist since returning from a knee injury on Feb. 19.

But again, it's the timing of the injury that's devastating. Duchene had 11 points in 15 games in March as a rookie; last season, he was a point per game player (13 points, 13 games) in March. He warms it up this time of year, historically.

What do the Avs do? Via Adrian Dater:

Who takes his place at center? I'll bet that Mark Olver will probably move back to center, maybe on a line with Peter Mueller and Milan Hejduk. That's just a guess.

Everything's on the table as the Avs try to claw their way into the postseason sans Dutchy. But there's another uncomfortable aspect to this worth mentioning: His contract, which is up this summer.

Duchene is an RFA, coming off a rookie deal that paid him $3.2 million this season. This is a lost season for him; how does that factor into the talks?

At least he was honored with a Foxy Friday before his injury, so that's something ...

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