Sweat poured off the face of Shane O'Brien as he plopped himself down at his locker stall after Tuesday's morning skate with the Avalanche. He had the satisfied look of a hockey player after a great workout, and he chatted amiably with teammates, occasionally offering a good-natured chirp.
Unfortunately for O'Brien, morning practices have been the only time he has had that satisfied feeling of late. Tuesday night, however, that began to change. For only the seventh time this season, O'Brien found himself penciled in the lineup against the San Jose Sharks. Despite injuries to veterans such as Erik Johnson (concussion) and Ryan Wilson (ankle), O'Brien had been passed over by coach Joe Sacco in favor of youngsters such as Stefan Elliott and Tyson Barrie, but Elliott was the healthy scratch this time on Tuesday.
How did it all go wrong this year for a guy who signed a three-year, $6 million contract to stay with the Avs last summer, when he might have been able to get more money on the unrestricted free-agent market?
Before the game, O'Brien didn't seem to have many answers.
"That's something I think you'd have to ask (Sacco) right now," said O'Brien, a veteran of 461 NHL games. "Nobody likes sitting out, but it is what it is. They're giving some young guys a look and a chance, and that's part of the game. At the same time, I feel like I can still play. Whenever I get my chance, I've got to prove that again."
Asked what he thinks may have led to Sacco souring on him, starting with his being scratched for opening night, O'Brien said he wasn't feeling 100 percent when training camp started.


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