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NHL playoffs injury parade already taking toll

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie, right, leaves the ice after getting injured on a hit by Minnesota Wild left wing Matt Cooke during the second period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series in St. Paul, Minn., Monday, April 21, 2014.

Associated Press

It was a particularly painful night in the NHL playoffs on Monday.

First Colorado Avalanche defenceman Tyson Barrie – a sparkplug for his team so far in the series – was taken out by Matt Cooke in a knee-on-knee collision that will get the Wild winger yet another lengthy suspension.

Then Anaheim Ducks defenceman Stephane Robidas re-broke his right leg when Ryan Garbutt landed awkwardly on it.

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The damage?

The 112-point Avs lose a key young player on an already thin back end – one who had logged 27 minutes in Game 1 and then 21 in Game 2 as basically their No. 2 blueliner – for four-to-six weeks with a knee injury.

The 116-point Ducks lose their big add at the trade deadline – one who was similarly playing more than 20 minutes a night as their No. 2 – for the rest of the postseason.

Those are obviously two huge blows to two top teams in the West and that's before we even get into the concussion that Blues captain David Backes is dealing with (as the result of another illegal hit).

There have been other major injuries that have affected contenders, too.

The Bruins lost Dennis Seidenberg in December for what's expected to be the rest of the year. The Avs are without Matt Duchene. So far, there's no Nathan Horton, Brenden Dillon, Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Ericsson and Alex Galchenyuk.

Heck the Lightning, Flyers and Wild don't even have their starting goaltenders.

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As a result, you look around at the early days of the NHL playoffs and one of the main things that sticks out is how much some young players are being tasked with.

With some help from overtime games, Jaden Schwartz is fourth among all forwards in ice time with 24.5 minutes a game.

Little talked about defencemen like David Savard, Nick Holden, Danny DeKeyser, Jordie Benn, Marco Scandella and Justin Braun are all getting top four treatment (bonus points if you can name the teams involved for all of them).

And four rookie goalies have already appeared in games, two as starters (Frederik Andersen and Darcy Kuemper).

With all the injuries, both before and after the playoffs began, the teams that end up going deep are either going to need to be extremely lucky – as the 2012 Kings were in having 16 skaters play all 20 games – or fortunate to have young depth step up and surprise.

It's been a while since we've seen a team with a really devastating injury early in the playoffs go all the way, which makes you wonder how big of a blow Monday really was for the Avs and Ducks.

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And what the Blues chances will be if Backes isn't his same dominant self here in short order.

Winning the games is one thing. Winning the war of attrition is another.

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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