Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jeff Carter and Duncan Keith were all forced off of Team Canada’s World Cup roster due to injury, and even though Matt Duchene could have easily joined the list of Canadian players on the shelf, he decided to play through the pain of a separated shoulder.
Duchene, 25, told ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun that the day before the tournament’s exhibition schedule was slated to begin, he was bumped into the boards by defenseman Shea Weber in practice and immediately felt pain shooting through his arm. While it was a routine play, the hit caused Duchene to suffer a separated shoulder.
"It was like a shock,'' Duchene told LeBrun. "I was sick to my stomach and my arm was numb. It was very painful. I was devastated. I couldn't believe it.’'
Instead of leaving the tournament, though, Duchene told the team he could fight through the shoulder separation. Duchene worked with team doctors, wore extra padding, played through the pain — quite well, too, racking up two goals and four points in six games — and was able to complete his goal of helping Canada to the World Cup. And throughout the whole ordeal, the Colorado Avalanche were kept up to date on the Duchene’s status.
But now back with the Avalanche after the tournament, Duchene said he doesn’t see the injury getting any worse and is at “100 percent in terms of (being able to) play.” Duchene said his shoulder can be a bit stiff in the mornings, according to NHL.com’s Rick Sadowski, but the Avalanche center added that once he gets his body warmed up, his shoulder doesn’t bother him at all.
"The first day was the worst,” Duchene said, according to Sadowski. “I think I've played through worse. I've played through better, it wasn't a big deal. It didn't affect me all tournament. Obviously, the first time you go out, you're a little tentative on it, but after that, it's just fine."
It’s a good thing, too, that Duchene didn’t do more damage to his shoulder by suiting up for the duration of the tournament because the Avalanche are looking to have a huge rebound season after the off-season departure of coach Patrick Roy and subsequent hiring of Calder Cup-winning coach Jared Bednar. Duchene, as he has been throughout his career, is going to be a big part of the Avalanche attack, and Colorado is no doubt hoping he can repeat his 30-goal performance from the 2015-16 campaign.
However, the biggest question for Duchene might not be his shoulder injury but where he suits up. If he runs on one of the wings, there’s a chance the Avalanche can load up and build a line that boasts both Duchene and young star center Nathan MacKinnon. It would be a lethal combination for the Avalanche offense, to be sure. That said, spreading out Duchene and MacKinnon can balance the Avalanche attack. Bednar’s not quite sure which spot is best for Duchene.
"I haven't decided either way how our lines are going to shake out,” Bednar said, according to Sadowski. “We’re still in kind of that evaluation mode. I like the way some of our guys have played at center, so I think we're going to have some options there.”
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