Avs set to visit Blue Jackets; O'Reilly expected to debut
After learning the front office had matched an offer sheet signed by Ryan O'Reilly, the Colorado Avalanche went out and snapped their three-game losing streak.
The Avs will now have their talented center on the ice Sunday afternoon when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets and try to snap a four-game road losing streak.
O'Reilly missed Colorado's first 19 games of the season as an unsigned restricted free agent and it was announced shortly before Colorado's game on Thursday with Calgary that the 22-year-old had signed a two-year offer sheet with the Flames.
Despite the standoff between player and team, the Avs moved quickly to retain O'Reilly's services and announced during the first intermission of a 5-4 win that they had matched the offer.
Related or not, Colorado responded on the ice after trailing 3-0 following 20 minutes, scoring twice in the second period before adding another three tallies in the final frame. Matt Duchene's goal capped the comeback with 9:08 to play, while Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny also scored in the frame.
Landeskog also had two assists to notch his first career three-point game, while Semyon Varlamov made 19 saves.
"Tonight we showed how much character we have in this room," Landeskog said of the comeback. "It was embarrassing to start. We knew we had to get at least that one goal to get going. Every time we got a goal we kept feeding off the momentum."
Colorado will now bank on the return of O'Reilly not disrupting that momentum. The 2009 second-round pick had a breakout campaign last season, notching 18 goals and 55 points over 81 games.
The center has already been cleared medically and is expected to play against the Blue Jackets in the opener of a three-game swing after practicing on Saturday.
"Hopefully I can contribute as best I can," O'Reilly said. "It will probably take a little while to get back in the swing of things, find the chemistry and catch up to the speed of the game."
The Blue Jackets have proven to be no pushover despite sitting last in the NHL with 14 points. They took the Chicago Blackhawks, who have yet to lose in regulation this season, to overtime on Friday before an eventual 4-3 loss. It marked the third time in as many meetings this season that Columbus lost by a goal to Chicago.
"In three games against these guys (this season), we're coming up one goal short," said Jackets netminder Steve Mason, who made 31 saves. "We're obviously doing some pretty good things to be able to stick with these guys."
Head coach Todd Richards, though, disagreed with taking too much from a loss to the NHL's top club.
"Regardless of who it is, it's still a loss," he said. "We still just aren't quite good enough. We battled and competed, which is what we should do, and we found a way to get it to overtime, but we've got to find ways to come out on top."
Ryan Johansen snapped a 37-game goal drought with a game-tying tally at the 12:23 mark of the third period, while Vinny Prospal scored just 31 seconds into the game.
Artem Anisimov also scored for the Blue Jackets after missing three games due to a scary head injury suffered versus Detroit on Feb. 21.
Columbus, though, lost its fourth straight, the last two in overtime, and has dropped seven of its past eight. It will play four in a row and nine of its next 10 at home.
The Blue Jackets have lost 10 of their past 13 versus the Avalanche, including a 4-0 setback in Colorado on Jan. 24. The Avs have won five of their past six in Columbus.