Avalanche look to avoid 2-0 series deficit against Stars

NHL Hockey

Losing their series opener was bad enough for the Colorado Avalanche. That’s the short-term issue facing them as they get ready for Monday’s clash with the Dallas Stars in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

When the Avalanche hit the ice in Edmonton, there will be a couple of new looks. Colorado, which was without forward Matt Calvert when Dallas took the opener 5-3 on Saturday, saw starting goalie Philipp Grubauer suffer an injury to what appeared to be his left leg early in the second period, and also played most of the game without veteran defenseman Erik Johnson.

On Sunday, coach Jared Bednar said Grubauer is out but doesn’t know for how long and that he’s not expecting Johnson to suit up for Monday’s tilt. Calvert remains day-to-day.

Having all those changes to contend with, Bednar won’t likely do much line juggling to shake up his squad for the next contest.

“I like to give our guys an opportunity to respond before I start making drastic changes,” Bednar explained. “They’ve banked a lot of trust based on how they’ve played.”

That said, the Avalanche are hardly down and out in the best-of-seven series. They’ll turn to Pavel Francouz in goal, with veteran Michael Hutchinson to serve as backup. More importantly, they’ll rely on a talented lineup to rebound from a subpar performance in the series opener, after which Bednar said “half” the team did “not show up to play” and the whole squad had plenty to think about.

“Obviously, Dallas is a good team. They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t a good team,” captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “But a lot of what happened (Saturday) was self-inflicted as well. We just didn’t get up to the standard we need to play at at this point of the season. We need to be a lot better, no doubt.”

Dallas, which has been succeeding despite No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop being on the shelf for much of the playoffs — with no return date in sight — will look to continue its strong play.

The Stars, who were struggling just before the league paused in March, won only one game during the round-robin tournament during the qualifying round. Dallas then was a dozen seconds away from trailing the Calgary Flames by a 3-1 margin in the last round before finding a new gear just in time.

Now, the Stars are rolling. They’ve scored 24 goals in the last six games, of which they’ve won five, and are seeing production from a slew of veterans who were struggling to get their game in order a couple of weeks ago — notably Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, who skate with Alexander Radulov and combined for three goals in Saturday’s win. Seguin’s goal to open the scoring was his first in 13 games.

“When we’re connected on the forecheck, when we’re competing, especially early on in the first few shifts, that’s usually a good indicator that we’re going,” Seguin said. “We were definitely going.”

“Any time our (top) line scores a goal early in the game, you know they’re going,” coach Rick Bowness added. “When that line scores an early goal like that, that’s huge and you just have to let them go. We’re not going anywhere without our top players.”

–Field Level Media

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