Adrian Dater of The Denver Post is reporting that Coach Joe Sacco has shifted star center Matt Duchene to a left wing position. He played on a line with Paul Stastny and David Jones earlier today in practice.
This move should have happened at the start of the season.
The Colorado Avalanche are in an enviable position at center. Traditionally the most difficult offensive position to fill, it is a position of organizational strength for Colorado as Stastny, Duchene, Ryan O`Reilly, and Jay McClement are all very solid up the middle and defensively responsible . Throw in prospects Joey Hishon and Brad Malone into the mix and there's a bounty of available centers.
Once Peter Mueller fell out of the lineup due to a head injury, the gaping hole in Colorado's roster became left wing. David Jones and Milan Hejduk are quality wingers, but players like T.J. Galiardi, Joakim Lindstrom, and Chuck Kobasew simply aren't at the talent level required of a top winger on a competitive team.
O'Reilly has centered the most consistent line for Colorado, flanked by rookie Gabriel Landeskog and Daniel Winnik. They've started every period, and have played quality minutes against their opponents' top lines. But the hodgepodge of wingers playing next to Stastny and Duchene was exactly that -- an experiment.
Duchene has the most pure skill on the team, and he has a great shot that he rarely utilizes from the center position. But with Stastny's playmaking ability feeding Duchene the puck at precisely the right time -- along with Hejduk's pure sniping ability -- this has all the makings of a top NHL line, and that is exactly what Colorado needs right now. The experiment of three scoring lines is over (at least for now) in favor of a more traditional distribution of talent.
Matt Duchene won't forget how to play center, but he has the right skill set to make a mighty fine winger. That is exactly what this team needs right now.