TAMPA, Fla. — It was another maintenance morning for a handful of Avalanche forwards on Sunday at Amalie Arena. Gabe Landeskog, Nazem Kadri, Valeri Nichushkin and Andre Burakovsky each skipped the skate ahead of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Colorado coach Jared Bednar said he’s hopeful all four banged-up forwards will be available to play as the club prepares for its second consecutive chance to win the Stanley Cup.
Landeskog has had an ailment that has prevented him from participating in morning skates throughout the postseason. Kadri is hoping to play in his third straight game after returning from a broken thumb. Nichushkin sustained a lower-body injury in Friday’s Game 5. And Burakovsky has missed the last three games with a hand/wrist injury.
The Avs, who failed to close out the series in a 3-2 loss on Friday at Ball Arena, are 8-1 on the road this postseason and have won their three previous series outside Denver.
“Our team is comfortable on the road. We talked about that a lot,” Bednar said from the podium on Sunday. “A different venue, same game — but maybe a few less distractions when you get out on the road.”
The Avs are in the same position they were in during the second round against the St. Louis Blues. Colorado had a 3-1 series lead but lost Game 5 at home before closing out the series in Game 6 on the road.
“It’s about resetting,” winger Mikko Rantanen said. “We had a chance at home but now we have a chance on the road and we know they’re going to bring their best game. We got to be ready for that. Every individual has to be responsible and get ready for tonight.”
Traffic in front of the net. The Avalanche hopes to make life more difficult for Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who plays behind a big and physical blueline. Colorado wants to plant more forwards in front of Vasilevskiy to take away his vision on the puck.
“With the size of their D, the strength of their game is boxing guys out and keeping guys away from him, and obviously, when he sees pucks — he’s the best goalie in the world and he’s going to stop them,” Avs winger Andrew Cogliano said. “So at the end of the day, for us to get there — it’s a willingness to compete, and that’s part of the playoffs.
“When you get to the front of the net you got to battle that guy one on one and that’s what it comes down to. It comes down to will. They’re trying to do their job, but at the end of the day for us, that’s a big part of our game. We have to get there.”
Point still out. Before this postseason, Lightning center Brayden Point had never missed a playoff game since entering the NHL in 2017 (67 for 67). But an upper-body injury in the first-round Game 7 win at Toronto has limited him to only two of the Lightning’s last 16 games, including Sunday’s Game 6 against the Avalanche.
“Players are used to playing a certain way or how they feel they can play and if they don’t feel confident in playing at the caliber they’re used to, it almost works against them,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Sunday morning. “It’s unfortunate because it’s a severe injury and at this time of the year, everybody is trying to get back into the lineup and there are just some things you can’t do.
“When you can’t do what you’re used to doing, it’s tough on a player … He’s still plugging along and rehabbing and trying to get better.”
Point, who scored 28 goals during the previous two postseasons, took the Lightning’s optional skate on Sunday. He played Games 1-2 against Colorado before being shut down again.
Cooper said the conversation post-Game 2 with Point was “extremely difficult for everyone involved because everyone cares so much. But there was no animosity or anything like that.”
Special teams momentum. The Avalanche held the special teams advantage in Games 1-4, but Tampa Bay was 1 of 4 on the power play and 2 of 2 on the penalty kill in Game 5. Can that kind of momentum carry over?
“It’s pretty clear, the team that wins the special-teams war has kind of gone on to win the game,” Cooper said. “For us, it was a huge step forward (in Game 5). You’ve heard me say this before: The power play can go in a little bit of a slump and you can get through it, but your (penalty kill) can’t go through a slump. For us to start killing some of these penalties has really helped our game.”
In Games 1-4, the Avalanche was 6 of 13 on the power play and 13 of 14 on the penalty kill.
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