The Colorado Avalanche will have to defeat the San Jose Sharks this evening at Pepsi Center in order to continue its run in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff. It is a test that the Avs are excited about.
"It is obviously not an ideal situation facing elimination in a Game 6, but you know we got to win a hockey game," said Ian Cole. "We know it is going to be a battle and that they are going to come out hard. So it is going to be tough, but it's a competitive situation that we are excited about."
The Sharks took the 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven, Round 2 set with a 2-1 win in Game 5 on Saturday at SAP Center and now have two chances to close out the series.
"I think they played like they had a must-win last game, I think they didn't want to come back here and face an eliminate game in Game 6," said Erik Johnson. "We have to play with the same desperation and do-or-die for us, so I think you will see our best game.
"I think the focus is there and the boys are ready to go, ready to have fun. It is going to be a fun atmosphere for us. It's do-or-die; these are the fun games to play in this time of year."
Video: Erik Johnson before Avs vs. Sharks Game 6
A victory tonight would send the second-round matchup to a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday night in San Jose. The winner of the series will move on to the Western Conference Finals to play either the St. Louis Blues or Dallas Stars, who will have a seventh game of their series on Tuesday.
"I mean we win one, and we got a chance to go and play a Game 7 to go to the Conference Final," said Colorado defenseman Tyson Barrie. "This is closer than a lot of us have ever been to tasting a Stanley Cup. We are aware of that, and we are going to be prepared for the task tonight."
The Round 2 series between Colorado and San Jose has been back-and-forth with the clubs' swapping wins. The Sharks took Games 1, 3 and 5 while the Avalanche earned victories in Games 2 and 4.
Tonight's Game 6 is the first time that Colorado is facing elimination this postseason after the squad won its first-round series against the Calgary Flames in five contests.
However, it is not the first time this year that the Avs have tackled what were viewed as must-win games. The team was six points out of a playoff spot on the morning of March 17 and went on an 8-1-2 run to jump three different teams in the final 11 outings of the season to secure a postseason berth.
"I think there are a handful of games down the stretch that we felt like you win or we are probably not going to make it," noted Barrie. "We did a good job on those and we have some experience in the past, so it's a little bit to draw on, but it's a good opportunity for us tonight and we are excited."
"We just believe in ourselves, and I mean that is all that really matters. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks as long as you believe in yourself," added Johnson. "I think we have a good belief system and guys care about each other and want to win, and we got to do it tonight otherwise our season is over. We are focused, excited and I think we can get the job done."
Video: Tyson Barrie on the Avs facing the Sharks in Game 6
ELEVEN AND SEVEN
Head coach Jared Bednar said after Colorado's morning skate that the team will use an non-traditional lineup of 11 forwards and seven defensemen for tonight's matchup.
Patrik Nemeth will be the seventh rear guard, playing in his first contest of the series. He skated in all five outings of the opening-round set against Calgary and was a plus-4 in the matchup. Bednar did not say which forward will be the healthy scratch this evening.
"His heaviness down low, being able to stop the cycle, one of his strengths. Shot blocking is something he brings and penalty kill, he's been real good for us all year," Bednar said of what Nemeth brings to the lineup. "So, we're going to get him back in, and we're going to run 11 forwards and mix some guys around a little bit and play the guys that are really jumping."
Forward Matt Calvert did not participate in the pregame practice and will miss his third contest of the series. He played in Game 4 after he was out of the third tilt of the set with an upper-body injury that he sustained at the end of Game 2, but he was still dealing with the ailment and missed Game 5.
Colorado used the 11-and-seven configuration for five games towards the end of the season (March 17-24) and went 4-0-1 in that span.
Philipp Grubauer is coming off a 37-save performance in Game 5, a playoff career-high for the German netminder. He ranks third among all goaltenders this postseason with a 2.16 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in 10 contests.
VIEW: Avalanche vs. Sharks Game 6 Projected Lineup
Once again, the Avalanche will host a special tailgate party, presented by Bud Light, in the Camry South parking lot before and during tonight's game.
The event begins three hours prior to puck drop and will feature live music, food and drinks, as well as giveaways, including a pair of tickets to Game 6.
Fans that do not have tickets to tonight's matchup are invited to stay at the tailgate during the contest and watch it on a big screen outside. A limited number of chairs are available, so fans are encouraged to bring their own folding chairs to the tailgate.
The outing itself will be televised nationally in the United States on NBCSN and across Canada on Sportsnet, CBC and TVA Sports. The radio broadcast can be heard locally on Altitude Sports Radio 92.5 FM or online at Colorado Avalanche.com
Altitude TV will also broadcast the Avalanche Face-off at 7:30 p.m. and the Avalanche Locker Room Report, which will begin immediately following the conclusion of the contest.