AVALANCHE

Despite a depleted roster, the Avalanche are ready to battle in Game 7

Apr 30, 2023, 1:26 PM

Valeri Nichushkin...

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Tonight at Ball Arena, the Avalanche will skate a Game 7 against the Kraken. But they won’t do it at full strength.

What has become a terrible tradition is they will do so with a jumbled lineup due to injury. This time, it stings a bit more.

It’s clear that Jared Bednar doesn’t like the double standard between the suspension of his own defenseman, Cale Makar for a hit on Seattle’s Jared McCann, and the non-punishment of the Kraken’s Jordan Eberle for his hit of Andrew Cogliano, the Avs center who will be out indefinitely after suffering a fractured neck in Game 6.

“It’s not supposed to matter,” the head coach said on Sunday morning about the suspension of one player being tied to the health of another. “It’s not about the injury. I don’t like the hit. From five years old, you’re wearing stop signs on your back on every jersey. It’s numbers the whole way and he doesn’t ease off him.”

Bednar would use the opportunity to compare and contrast the hits.

“I don’t think (Makar) is trying to take a run at McCann or hurt McCann,” said a clearly frustrated Bednar. “But the reality of the situation is he decided to finish him and there’s no puck there, so it’s a suspension. (The Eberle hit) is the same way. I don’t think it was retaliatory. You’re playing the game at a fast pace and players are going to make a lot of good decisions. Every once in a while, they are going to make a bad one.”

Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol agreed with the speed of play being a significant factor, but wouldn’t go as far as saying the consequences should’ve been equal.

“It’s a fast play on a wall,” said Hakstol. “To sit here and debate it in front of everybody kind of turns into a sideshow and I don’t want it to be that. It’s a fast play in tight spaces on the wall where you can land awkwardly. I hate to see the end result of that.”

Eberle felt terrible about the hit and repeatedly discussed his sympathy for his former teammate, Cogliano.

“It’s a fast play, it’s really tough,” said Eberle. “You never want to injure a guy, especially one who you’ve played with and respect. For me, it’s just trying to play hockey and never trying to hurt somebody.”

It wasn’t lost on Makar that there seems to be two different standards for discipline.

“I mean it’s all subjective,” said Makar. “I’m not gonna comment on it too much. There’s not too much to say on the topic other than two guys on our team ended their series and, yeah, it’s tough. It’s playoff hockey and it’s an unfortunate result.”

The Avalanche will now go the rest of their playoff run one way or another without Cogliano.

“I’ve seen the CT scan, said Bendar. “He has a fracture of his C5.”

Cogliano will be going for a follow up MRI today. His return will take weeks of recovery and rehab. For a veteran player, it brings into question his return to the NHL, period.

Losing Cogliano will yet again force the Avs to make a radical change to their lineup. For the first time in the playoffs, defenseman Brad Hunt is likely to make his playoff debut as a forward.

“You just take it in stride. I’ve done it before. You just try and approach it like any other game,” said Hunt. “Obviously, I’ll be in a little different position, but my role won’t really change.”

There’s an inevitability that has settled in on this Avs locker room as they now face a Game 7 without players they expected to be available. Cogliano, Gabriel Landeskog, Darren Helm, Josh Manson and, most frustratingly, Valeri Nichushkin won’t be on the ice on Sunday night.

“I just want to win this game.” said Nathan MacKinnon. “To this point, we’ve battled. We’ve had guys going down every night and no one’s coming back. This is the group we have and obviously everybody is battling as hard as they can. It would be great to keep fighting the same way.”

Hakstol said that he doesn’t believe momentum matters going from one game to another. That is exactly what you would expect a coach on the ropes to say.

Despite the massive setbacks, tonight will be the first time since 2014 a playoff Game 7 will be played on the ice in Denver. This is the bounty of what the Avalanche fought so hard to obtain.

Echoing the sentiments of MacKinnon, there is nobody else walking through the door. What’s on the line is obvious to Makar.

“If you can’t get up for a Game 7, there’s something wrong with you,” the reigning Conn Smythe winner said.

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