Forget about counting the Avalanche out.
When Patrick Roy pulled his team together following a short practice Monday all he told them was that he was proud of them and their work wasn't done. They could solidify their spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs during the final eight games of the season. There was no talk of Matt Duchene's injury nor the time he would be missing - the head coach knew there wasn't any need for it.
"We've been finding ways to win since the start of the year. We've played several games without Matty," he said adamantly Monday. "They're all important players on our team. We've been finding ways to win games and we'll continue to find ways to win."
It was revealed that Duchene had injured his medial collateral ligament and would miss about a month of time.
Colorado would be without the team's leading scorer likely through the first round of the playoffs. But Roy - who knows full well what losing a significant player can mean to a team - isn't about to let his team use the injury as an excuse. The former Avs goaltender was a part of the 2001 team that lost Peter Forsberg in the middle of the postseason due to a ruptured spleen and still managed to rally and win the Stanley Cup.
"This is what we're talking about in changing a culture," Roy said. There was a sense of excitement in the Pepsi Center as the Avalanche clinched a spot in the playoffs that hadn't been genuinely felt since those Roy retired.
"We're not looking for excuses, we're looking for solutions. We're also looking for opportunities for other guys," he continued.
Though Colorado is 3-0-0 without Duchene on the ice - he missed time in mid-November because of an oblique injury - there will certainly be a void on their first line. His teammates complimented him on his electric playing style and his production, especially of late. The Canadian Olympian returned from Sochi and was playing extended confidence.
Collectively, the Avalanche will need to fill the void. And for the time being, Nathan MacKinnon will move up to displace Duchene.
"I'm not going to try to replace Duchy [Matt Duchene], you can't. He's been one of our best players all year, he's been very consistent," the rookie center asserted. "I'm just going to try to help the team win."
MacKinnon - who said he doesn't feel any added pressure - will step in but every one will need to step up. The Avalanche have had numerous absences from notable players this season including Paul Stastny, John Mitchell and currently P.A. Parenteau that have continually impeded the team.
"It's frustrating with all the injuries we've had," forward Ryan O'Reilly states. "Obviously we're missing one of our key players and it's going to hurt us but I do think we have a deep team and other guys can step up and help contribute."
Until Duchene returns, the team - with their resolute mentality - must rally to stay alive. He tweeted out his disappointment but urged fans to stay positive. He optimistically stated that he would attempt to come back early for the beginning of the playoffs that would start on April 16 (or nearly two weeks sooner than expected).
"He was little emotional after the game," Paul Stastny recalled. "You always want to give it a couple days because you're always expecting the worst. As the days go by I think he'll have a better understanding of how long he'll be out."
Surely, the Avalanche will miss Duchene. And just as certainly, Roy won't allow his team to think, why did this happen to us. 'Why us?'