Avalanche balancing rest, focus before Stanley Cup Second Round

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The Colorado Avalanche are trying to use their time wisely while they wait to host either the Vegas Golden Knights or Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Second Round on Sunday.

Colorado has not played since May 23, when it completed a first-round sweep of the St. Louis Blues with four straight victories. Vegas hosts Minnesota in Game 7 of that first-round series Friday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS, ATTSN-RM, BSN, BSWI+).

“We’re really trying to do whatever we can to make sure we’re engaged in Game 1,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “We still don’t know who our opponent is, but we’re trying to do our best to make sure we’re prepared mentally and physically.”

The Avalanche, who were 5-2-1 against the Wild and 4-3-1 against the Golden Knights this season, were off Monday, had an optional practice Tuesday, a mandatory practice Wednesday and an optional Thursday.

“I think for us it’s maintaining a focus, it’s intensity in practice,” Bednar said. “I really liked practice yesterday, there was a physical component to our practice, not just getting up and down the ice.”

Goalie Philipp Grubauer said he watched the Wild’s 3-0 win Wednesday but has been staying away from hockey when possible to keep his mind clear. Grubauer went 4-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage in the first round.

“For them, they’re in the flow, they’re playing so they might be tired because they’re playing a couple extra games than us,” Grubauer said of Vegas and Minnesota. “From our perspective, we had a couple COVID breaks during the season, so it just feels like another COVID break, a couple days off, and we’re right back to it.

“We’ve seen them enough the last couple months, we played them enough, so it’s not like one team is doing something we’ve never seen. It’s all basically the same.”

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There have been video sessions to prepare for either opponent, but Bednar said the Avalanche concentrated on the Golden Knights after they took a 3-1 series lead.

“Now it’s 3-3, so we’ll put the finishing touches on our preparation as coaches with Vegas and we’ll start digging into Minny,” Bednar said. “The time’s helping us in that regard. Does it make it more difficult? Yes, because we’ll have to relay the pertinent information to our players and still get some practice and some reps on some things we want to do that pertain to our new opponent. There’ll be a cram session for our players and hopefully they retain a lot of the information.

“Our coaches have been working hard and getting prepared along with our analytics team giving us some good information to look at, then we go back to the video and study it, just trying to pick up everything we possibly can on both these teams.”

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