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Preseason pain: Avalanche lose Jan Hejda and Brandon Yip to injury

Sep 24, 2011, 2:45 AM EST

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Brandon Yip AP

The St. Louis Blues topped the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in a preseason game at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Unfortunately for the Avs, the loss on the scoreboard was the least of the team’s worries. In addition to losing a meaningless preseason game, they also lost Brandon Yip during the game, and announced that Jan Hejda will also be out for an extended period of time. Suddenly, the one-goal loss in September doesn’t seem so important.

It was revealed after the game that Yip broke his forearm while blocking a shot against the Blues. Obviously broken bones are bad for any player in the preseason, but the setback will be especially tough for Yip to swallow. After an impressive rookie season in 2009-10, Yip took a few giant steps backwards last season as he bounced around the lineup. He played left wing. He played right wing. He played on scoring lines. He played on energy lines. No matter where they put him, he never was able to capture that magic that excited so many fans after his inaugural campaign.

As the fine folks over at Mile High Hockey put it, he was caught in between on Colorado’s roster last year:

“We’ve said over and over again here that Yip appears to be in that Marek Svatos no-man’s land. He doesn’t contribute enough offensively to land a spot on the top two lines (come on…10 assists? Really?) and he doesn’t seem to have any of the intangibles – drive, hustle, toughness or defense, for example – to have any impact on the lower lines. Actually, there was an impact…just not a positive one.”

That surely doesn’t sound like a guy who can afford to get off to a slow start this season. Whether the Avalanche are looking for him to fill a scoring role, or more likely an energy role, they need to see him as much as possible before making a final determination.

More bad news came out after the game when it was announced that Jan Hejda will miss 2-4 weeks with a knee injury that was probably sustained in a scrimmage on Tuesday. The Avalanche signed the 33-year-old defenseman to a 4-year, $13 million contract on the first day of free agency. Hejda was brought in from Columbus to provide veteran leadership on the blueline and play an important role on the penalty killing unit. The worst part of the situation, is that the team isn’t really sure when the injury occurred during the scrimmage. As it stands, the Avalanche aren’t expecting him to be ready for the season opener against the Red Wings on October 8.

Most teams will tell you that it’s nice to win, but there are other aspects to preseason games that are more important than the final score. Teams are looking to evaluate their young prospects. Towards the end of training camp, they’re even looking to develop some chemistry between linemates and defensive pairings. But at the end of the day, as long as the teams can escape without any injuries, they’ve succeeded in a preseason game.

By that measure, the Avalanche were big losers on Friday night.

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