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Avalanche Skate: Rantanen Probable, Jets Matchup ‘A Big One’




I can’t remember the last time the Colorado Avalanche had a full practice where they could work on a little bit of everything, but the small break in the schedule allowed for that to happen on Friday.

Players don’t necessarily love practicing at this time of the year. They like the schedule of playing one day, taking the next day off, and staying in a rhythm.

Coaches? They’re fans of a little practice time.

“I think it’s good,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said on Friday. “Nobody wants to practice this time of year, but if you balance it with some time away from the rink, they come energized. We’re on at 11, at 10:30 the whole team was out on the ice skating around, and they were in good spirits today.”

One player you can expect to see back in the lineup on Friday is Mikko Rantanen. Coach declared him “probable” for Saturday’s matchup against the Winnipeg Jets. Rantanen wasn’t available to the media, but skated on a line with Casey Mittelstadt and Valeri Nichushkin, a combination we have only seen in small spurts this year. The top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, and Artturi Lehkonen stayed the same.

It’ll be important to have Rantanen back, because there’s a lot riding on this matchup.

“It is (a playoff game),” Bednar said. “It really is, at the end of the day. You gotta win tomorrow if you want home ice. You probably have to win out if you want home ice because of the tiebreaker situation. It’s not life and death just yet, but certainly want our guys to put a high level of importance on winning tomorrow. You only win one at a time, but tomorrow’s a big one.”

I asked Mittelstadt if the players look at this matchup on Saturday any differently than a standard regular season game.

“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “With the standings and where we’re at, it’s a big game for us and you get to this time of year, there’s going to be more big games. I think there’s definitely a little added emphasis on this one.”

The Jets have won five in a row, and I’ve always felt this would be a tough matchup for the Avalanche in the playoffs. Bednar explained what makes the Jets so difficult.

“They’re as stingy as anybody defensively,” he said. “They’re hard to create scoring chances against, and when you do, you’ve got to face Hellebuyck. Number one, we’ve got to defend same sort of way we did against Minnesota. All the things we were talking about, they’ve got to come together tomorrow again. If you give up a couple of easy goals against this team, you have no chance of winning, because of what they don’t give up.”

Other News And Notes

  • Miles Wood skated with the team, but is doubtful for tomorrow. It wouldn’t surprise me if he plays on Sunday against Vegas, though.
  • There was a pretty large camera crew following every move MacKinnon made on the ice. I know Amazon is putting together a series where they follow around 8-12 players in the league for a bit, so it’s possible that’s what it was for, but I can’t say for sure.
  • Gabriel Landeskog skated on his own before practice. On the radio the other day, Bednar said he’s making good progress, but there’s really nothing new to report here. I’ve already said I’d be surprised if he comes back this season, but you never know.
  • Bednar confirmed that both goaltenders will get a start this weekend, but as for who will start tomorrow?
    • “Wait and see,” he said with a smirk.
    • I’m not a betting man, but I’d put money down on Alexandar Georgiev playing against the Jets.

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