Home is Where the Last Change is
When an NHL team plays at home, the coaching staff has the right to make the last change in the on-ice lineup before the pending faceoff. Dave Hakstol and his assistant coaches will no doubt take advantage of adjusting personnel per the ongoing pattern of Colorado doubling Nathan McKinnon’s shifts by sending him out as the third member of other lines. MacKinnon played 27-plus minutes Wednesday and Bednar told the press corps MacKinnon “can play 30 minutes if we need him.”
Gourde and his linemates, Eeli Tolvanen and Oliver Bjorkstrand, have been leading by example on how to be hard to play against and still generate scoring chances. Per Kraken colleague Alison Lukan, Gourde led the Kraken in shot quality in Game 5 while Tolvanen was second. All that while mostly tasked with limiting MacKinnon and whichever linemates (most often Artturi Lehkonen and Evan Rodrigues).
Gourde scored Wednesday’s game-winning goal by scrapping with Avs defenders net-front and one-handing his stick for a deflection. Tolvanen led the Kraken in hits (eight Monday and nine Wednesday) in both games 4 and 5. Bjorkstrand continues to excel in winning puck battles and carrying pucks into the offensive zone, among many reasons GM Ron Francis traded for him over the summer.
“I’ve said it a million times,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said, “we’re putting the most pressure on ourselves out of anybody, right? ‘Cause we want to win and we want to get rewarded for the hard work we put in for the season, They’re a second-year team. They got in the playoffs. They got a good team. They’re playing loose. They’re confident. Obviously, the guys in the room, in their room, are like, ‘Well, yeah, we want to win,’ but expectations are on our team.
“But that’s nothing new to our group, either. We’ve dealt with that over the last three or four years, last year especially, and they got the job done. I believe in our team to be able to deal with the expectations.”
The Avalanche will get Cale Makar, last year’s Conn Smythe Award winner as the playoff MVP, back Friday after he received a suspension because of a late hit along the boards on Seattle’s Jared McCann in Game 4. But they might be without fellow defenseman Josh Manson, who left Wednesday’s game in the second period after reaggravating a lower-body injury.
Left winger McCann, who led the Kraken with 40 goals in the regular season, didn’t make the trip to Denver for Wednesday’s game and doesn’t appear likely to return Friday.
“He just sent a quick text (Wednesday) night congratulating us,” Schultz said. “Obviously, we miss him, and it’s probably tough for him to be watching but, hopefully, he heals quickly and we get him back quick. We miss ‘Canner’ a lot, but guys are doing a really good job of stepping up right now.”
Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon scored his third goal of the series Wednesday, but it wasn’t enough. The Kraken have scored the opening goal in each of the five games.
“It’s tough, yeah. We didn’t have our A-game or our B-game (Wednesday), I don’t know why,” MacKinnon said. “We just got to find a way to bring Game 7 back here. I think we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot. I know it’s cliche to say, but I think there’s plays to be made out there and we’re just not making them for whatever reason right now. It’s not a matter of work or competitiveness or anything like that.”
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