TAMPA, Fla. — The lone benefit of having an upper body injury in the NHL playoffs? A player can still skate … and skate a lot.
For Avalanche center Nazem Kadri, a broken thumb sustained in Game 3 of the Edmonton series kept him out of the lineup for 18 days, but when he was cleared, he was in condition to play … and play a lot.
Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at Tampa Bay: Twenty-six shifts and 18:42 of ice time, two shots and the overtime goal.
Game 5 against Tampa Bay: Twenty-two shifts and 15:33 of ice time and a team-high seven shots on goal.
Because of the thumb, Kadri is not taking face-offs, but he has re-assumed his regular second-line role.
“Obviously (he plays in) a huge spot in the roster,” coach Jared Bednar said Sunday morning. “The thing with Naz this year is the consistency and competiveness he’s played with and you mix and match that with the skill and ability to create offense and score goals and still be a solid defender. That tells you what he brings to our team — it’s a little bit of everything.”
Kadri entered Sunday night’s Game 6 against the Lightning with 15 points in 15 playoff games after posting a career-best 87 points in the regular season (26 more than his previous high). He is scheduled to become a free agent next month.
“Naz is a gamer,” winger Andrew Cogliano said. “He’s a guy, in these situations, you want in your room and you want on your team. I think he proved that (in Game 4). He comes in (after) a serious injury, an injury that’s not easy to come back from in that time frame, and he makes things happen.”
Kadri was rolling along earlier this postseason — one goal/one assist and three goals/one assist in road wins at St. Louis (Games 3-4), one goal in Game 1 vs. Edmonton and three assists in Game 2 vs. the Oilers. He was injured on his first shift (37 seconds) against the Oilers on June 4 when he was checked from behind by Evander Kane, his hand crashing into the boards.
Kadri missed the first three games of the Cup Final, but promptly scored the Game 4 winner. As his teammates began to celebrate, Cogliano fetched the puck. Why?
“No reason,” he said. “I just saw the puck sitting there and it was a good goal and it was an emotional time so I thought we should probably grab it.”
Despite missing basically five games, Kadri entered Sunday tied for fifth on the Avalanche in playoff points.
“It’s difficult to create offense at this time of year and his ability and his finishing touch is something our team needs,” Bednar said.
Said Cogliano: “We need him. He’s a big part of our team and we need his best hockey.”
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