The injuries hit the Colorado Avalanche so fast and furious this season that Jared Bednar only had to make a handful of tough lineup decisions throughout the year.
He would argue even less than that.
“Probably haven’t had to make any, never mind a lot of them,” Bednar joked on Tuesday morning.
That changes tonight.
With Cale Makar and Josh Manson ready to return to the lineup, the Avalanche finally have a healthy defense. That means that unless Bednar decides to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen (still a possibility), he’ll have to scratch a defenseman.
That doesn’t mean you’ll never see that player again, though.
“I don’t like grabbing players that have competed all year and have done a nice job for us,” Bednar said. “We wouldn’t be sitting where we are if everyone hadn’t contributed to that. But the reality of it is that we’re going to need all of them before it’s all said and done. I think having those decisions is a positive, because we’ll probably get to the point where we don’t have decisions, and could be quick. I like being able to have guys in and out, and each guy has a different skillset or a different strength that might come in handy as this series moves on.”
The tough decision tonight appears to be between the two Johnson’s on the blueline. Based off morning skate, Jack looks like he’ll be the one drawing in. Erik stayed on the ice late, and was not available to the media, while Jack was off early and talked for a good bit.
“It’s the same as it’s always been. Nothing changes,” Jack Johnson said of his mindset heading into game one. “It’s still the same game, and there’s no reason to change your mindset in terms of how you’re going to play the game.”
Andrew Cogliano was not present for morning skate, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be an option tonight. Even if he wasn’t an option, we’d probably never know.
“Yeah, we’ll see,” Bednar said when asked of Cogliano’s availability for game one. “Maintenance.”
As for best guess at the lineups, based off practice yesterday and morning skate today, here’s what to expect for the Avalanche.
Evan Rodrigues – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Artturi Lehkonen – J.T. Compher – Valeri Nichushkin
Alex Newhook – Lars Eller – Denis Malgin
Matt Nieto – Andrew Cogliano – Logan O’Connor
Devon Toews – Cale Makar
Samuel Girard – Bowen Byram
Jack Johnson – Josh Manson
With Alexandar Georgiev starting in net.
As for the Seattle Kraken, old friend Philipp Grubauer is expected to start game one. Dave Hakstol would not give out any lineup information after morning skate, but Daniel Sprong was present. he was the one question mark they had with their lineup.
Game one starts at 8 PM MST tonight at Ball Arena.