Now healthy, Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson waits for chance to get back in lineup

Ryan Wilson was considered a top-four Avalanche defenseman at the start of the season, leading the club in plus-minus and serving as its premier hitter from the back end.But tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Pepsi Center, the former undrafted giveaway representative is likely to again fail to crack the top six, and watch as a healthy scratch for the third consecutive game.Some lingering concussion issues and perhaps a dose of politics might be keeping Wilson out of the lineup, but Colorado coach Joe Sacco says Wilson is 100 percent and simply caught up on the wrong side of a numbers game. "We have eight healthy defensemen," Sacco said. "It presents a problem for me as a coach, obviously, to take two guys out of the lineup every night on the back end, and you're going to have two unhappy defensemen."Wilson is unhappy, but also understanding. "I feel fine. I feel normal," he said. "It's only one those things. We have eight D. I don't know what's going on tomorrow. I don't know what's going on any other game. I only wake up in the morning, think I'm playing, and go to the rink and see what happens."Sacco doesn't expect Wilson to play tonight, because the team is coming off a big 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks and played well in its previous game, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Sacco is superstitious when it comes to changing the lineup during a winning streak, as defenseman Kyle Quincey learned earlier this season after the team's ice-time leader was a healthy scratch during a winning streak after he missed two games with a groin injury. When asked if Wilson is still looked upon as a feared hitter, middleweight enforcer and complete defenseman, Sacco said: "I believe he is, yes. Has he done it consistently his last couple games? No. That's one of the reasons why he's not in the lineup right now. He's also the victim a guy who was injured, came back, didn't play as well as he did prior to he got injured."Wilson, 25, missed 15 games after suffering a concussion J! an. 10 a nd has been in and out of the lineup since, missing two of those games because the club was playing well. He played in 5 games last month prior to a groin injury forced him to miss two. He played in four consecutive games prior to beginning his latest stretch as a healthy scratch. Since his concussion, he is minus-1, with a few good hits and no fights. "I don't think my game has changed at all," Wilson said. "Being physical is a big part of my game, but if it's not there I can't only make hits happen. They have to come to me."Ryan O'Byrne is the only Avs defenseman to have played in all 55 games, and only he, Jan Hejda and Erik Johnson have not been listed as healthy scratches. With offensive-minded, first-year professionals Stefan Elliott and Tyson Barrie getting separate chances with the NHL club, Colorado appears to have a wealth of defensemen and not enough scoring forwards. If the Avs were to trade one of their defensemen for a top-six forward, Johnson, Quincey or Shane O'Brien would garner the most value. If no defenseman is moved, the Avs will continue to embrace what O'Byrne dubbed "healthy competition.""We have eight defensemen who are NHL-caliber. Even Elliott is NHL-caliber, so that's nine," O'Byrne said. "You have to make sure you're playing your hardest every night, because there's another guy out there chomping at the bit to play."Mike Chambers: 303-954-1357 or mchambers@denverpost.comCAROLINA AT COLORADO7 p.m. today, ALT, 950 AMSpotlight on Jamie McBain: McBain, a Carolina defenseman, grew up in a Minneapolis suburb and played triple-A hockey with Avalanche teammates Erik Johnson and Peter Mueller from the ages of 10 to 15 with the Minnesota 88s, a team coached by Bernie McBain, Jamie's father. McBain also played with the Avs' duo at the national development program in Ann Arbor, Mich., and at the 2006-07 World Junior Championship for Team USA. McBain, 23, played three years at the University of Wisconsin and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2009.NOTEBOOKHurricanes: They los! t 3-2 in overtime at Anaheim on Wednesday to begin a three-game road trip in three time zones. Carolina won its two previous games. ... The Hurricanes will remain in Colorado tonight and travel to Montreal on Saturday to play the Canadiens on Monday. ... Forward Drayson Bowman grew up in Littleton and has played in 16 games for Carolina. He has played in 48 NHL games since making his debut in 2009. ... Forward Anthony Stewart, the brother of former Avs winger Chris Stewart, cleared waivers Tuesday and traveled with the Canes to Anaheim. He played against the Ducks.Avalanche: Jean-Sebastien Giguere will start in goal. ... The Avs have 57 points, one more than they amassed in 55 games last season, in which they won only 5 of their last 27 games. In 2009-10, the Avs had 68 points at this time. ... Colorado will depart for St. Louis after tonight's game and play the Blues on Saturday. Goalie Semyon Varlamov is the scheduled starter. ... The lineup will remain the same from Tuesday's 5-2 victory against Chicago. ... Center Matt Duchene skated on his own prior to practice Thursday, his third consecutive day on the ice since suffering a knee injury Dec. 29.Mike Chambers, The Denver PostPowered By

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