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Avalanche Skate: Team Believes, Lineup Mysteries




Get excited, Avalanche fans. It’s playoff time. It doesn’t get any better than this.

After arriving in Winnipeg an hour late last night because of the storm back in Denver, the Avalanche held an optional morning skate on Sunday before Game One against the Jets. Attendence was indeed very optional. Valeri Nichushkin walked out onto the ice in tennis shoes to shoot the puck for a few minutes, but besides him, there were no regular forwards present.

Devon Toews, who missed practice yesterday because he was welcoming a new baby boy (everyone is healthy) into the world, was on the ice. John Manson, who I will have a feature on later today, was out there, as well as Sean Walker and Jack Johnson. Also present at the skate in a regular jersey was Sam Girard, who missed the last week of the regular season with a concussion. Will he play tonight?

“He’s feeling better. Possibly an option for tonight,” Bednar said. “Have to wait and see.”

Expect a lot of that this time of year. Unless it’s a major injury, teams aren’t going to give you much when it comes to lineup decisions. That’s how you know the Jonathan Drouin injury must be relatively bad.

There were two goaltenders on the ice, but one of them was not Justus Annunen. Arvid Holm, called up from the Eagles to serve as an emergency goaltender, took part in the skate, as did Alexandar Georgiev.

Georgiev took shots like he was doing his normal starting day routine, but we weren’t going to get any confirmation from coach on whether or not he’ll be the guy in the crease on Sunday evening. I expect him to be, but you can never be sure. Annunen not even taking morning skate caused me to raise my eyebrow just a little bit, but I’d still be surprised if he started.

To many, the Avalanche are the underdogs in this series. Manson said you have to embrace that. Johnson said he hadn’t even thought about it. Bednar had some different thoughts.

“I don’t care how they view it as an individual or as a team,” he said. “My whole belief on it is, if we would have been 3-0 against the Jets and finished first overall in the whole league, I’d feel no better going into the series than I do know. I know we’re a good team. They’re a good team. It’s about playing your best hockey at the right time.”

Colorado didn’t finish the season the way they wanted to, but they’ve won before and they aren’t afraid of the moment. They know they need to play the right way to beat this team, though.

“I think our team has a lot of belief in what we do and how we have success, and they realize we laid two eggs against Winnipeg,” Bednar said. “What I like about our team is every time we give them a challenge and give them information, they are able to implement it and turn things around. It’s going to have to happen now.”

Johnson said he doesn’t even care about the regular season anymore. That’s in the past.

“Once you start playoffs, regular season doesn’t matter,” Johnson said. “Good, bad, indifferent, individually, as a team, it’s a totally different animal right now.”

Other News And Notes

  • Jack Johnson’s one-word answer as to whether or not Nathan MacKinnon should win the Hart Trophy?
    • “Yes.”
  • Manson wasn’t healthy to start the playoffs last year, and admitted that to me this morning. A healthy Manson could make a difference in this series. Look for that later today for all + subscribers.
  • Chris Wagner and Brad Hunt were on the ice for optional skate. I expect Joel Kiviranta to step into the lineup with Jonathan Drouin missing.

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