LOVELAND, Colo. – Coming into 2019-20, the Colorado Avalanche organization had high hopes for both the Avs and their AHL affiliate, the Colorado Eagles. The second year of the affiliation looked to be fruitful, as a handful of roster additions added talent and depth to both teams. Skaters like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Joonas Donskoi, & Nazem Kadri for the Avs and Jayson Megna & T.J. Tynan for the Eagles were newly acquired, welcome pieces for both Colorado clubs coming into 2019-20.

Then some key Avalanche injuries came rolling in, and the aforementioned skaters were called to step up — either to the line above their normal one, or from the Eagles to the Avs.

The potent Avalanche forward line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantenan was decimated in late October, as both Rantanen (Oct. 24) and Landeskog (Oct. 30) were placed on injured reserve with lower-body designations. The ripple effect, from the Avalanche down to the Eagles and even to the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies, has been notable. Below are the respective records of all three teams in the Colorado affiliation tree since Rantanen’s IR placement:

Team Records from October 24 to November 11
-Avalanche: 3-4-1 (.438)
-Eagles: 3-4-0 (.429)
-Grizzlies: 1-4-2 (.286)

Whether due to injuries or call-ups, depth is always a necessity in minor league hockey. Recent wins by the Avalanche (9-4 over Nashville on Nov. 7 and 4-2 over Columbus on Nov. 9) and Eagles (5-2 over Texas on Nov. 9) may indicate some positive chemistry building for those skaters shuffled around between the two Colorado-based pro hockey teams. 

EAGLES GO STREAKING, FOR BETTER AND WORSE

The Colorado Eagles were just starting to pick up momentum before one of the best forward lines in the NHL was ravaged by the injury bug. After losing their two opening weekend games to Stockton, the Eagles proceeded to win four straight in the middle of October before dropping three in a row after the Rantenan and Landeskog injuries. Now, Colorado has taken two of their last three matches, making small steps in the right direction with wins from both Adam Werner and Hunter Miska in net.

BIG WELCOME BACK FOR GREER

The previously mentioned Eagles game against Texas on Saturday also marked the return of Colorado forward A.J. Greer from suspension. His impact was immediate, scoring his first two goals of the season in the second and third periods of the 5-2 victory over the Stars.

As you’ll see in this video, Greer was involved in a fight with Milwaukee d-man Josh Healey during the Eagles game against the Milwaukee Admirals on October 19. After being escorted to the penalty box, Greer nodded and smiled at Ads defenseman Jarred Tinordi from behind the glass before emerging and engaging Tinordi in fisticuffs. Greer received a six-game suspension and Tinordi three for their antics.

In my opinion, Greer has the propensity to be a fourth-line NHL caliber player if he can keep his temper in check and not go overboard with poor decision making like he did against Milwaukee. He most certainly has the self-awareness and desire to better himself, as detailed by Scott MacDonald’s feature piece on Greer from just a few days ago. For now, he needs to simply stay focused on what he can do for the Eagles. He’s already played in 37 games for the Avs over three seasons, and posted 19 goals and 25 assists in 54 games played for the Eagles in 2018-19. Should he keep that efficiency up (and himself out of trouble), there shouldn’t be any doubt that he can crack the NHL on a permanent basis.

ENDING EAGLES EXCERPTS

Here are some stats for the Eagles thus far into the season (as of November 10)…
-Record: 6-6-0, 12 pts. (fifth in the Pacific Division)
-Power Play: Six goals on 52 attempts (11.5%, 26th in AHL)
-Penalty Kill: Eight goals allowed on 45 attempts (82.2%, 19th in AHL)
-Player of Note: Jacob MacDonald, 3G+6A=9P (11th amongst defensemen in AHL)

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