What was originally considered to be a minor injury has turned out to be anything but for Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Nieto. Just days after stating Nieto was “dinged up” and would miss Saturday night’s game, BSN Denver’s AJ Haefele relays news from GM Joe Sakic tonight that Nieto is expected to miss six to eight weeks with an undisclosed lower-body injury.
The timeline leaves little to no chance that Nieto will return in the regular season. If the Avalanche make the playoffs, his availability would be in question through at least the first round, if not longer. It’s a tough blow for both the team and the player in what has been a career year for Nieto. The 2011 second-round pick has been nothing if not consistent over his NHL career as a bottom-six forward. Including this season, Nieto has recorded at least double-digit points in 58 or more games in each of his six seasons. His best year to date came in his sophomore campaign with the San Jose Sharks, when he registered 27 points in 72 games, although he nearly matched that total last season in Colorado. However, with 22 points already through 58 games this year, Nieto was on pace to finish the 2017-18 season with 30 points. This injury ensures that won’t happen, robbing Nieto of a new career best and the Avalanche of one of their top-nine scoring forwards.
Fortunately, Sakic and company did manage to add Derick Brassard from the Florida Panthers at the deadline at a relative bargain rate and he will be in the lineup right away tonight when the Avs face those same Panthers. Even amidst a miserable season for the veteran forward, Brassard is a major addition for Colorado and should arguably be considered the best non-first line forward on the club the rest of the way. If he plays up to that expectation, he will more than make up for Nieto’s absence and could be the key to the Avalanche winning a playoff spot and Nieto seeing the ice again this season. Beyond Brassard, Tyson Jost, Sven Andrighetto, and Sheldon Dries are among the others who could be asked to step up in Nieto’s stead. The fate of the Avs’ season may rest in their ability to emulate their fallen teammate’s work ethic and tenacity on the ice.