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Avs Goalies Use Camp Scrimmages to Work on Timing

Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz prepare for the season opener

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Scrimmaging during this year's training camp is crucial to get the Colorado Avalanche players into game situations before the season begins, but the simulated contests are especially important for the club's goaltenders.

With no preseason outings this year for the Colorado keepers to face random shots and get their timing right, Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz are trying to get up to speed as quickly as possible in scrimmages before the real thing ensues on Wednesday versus the St. Louis Blues.

"I do think when you go from your summer skates to a structured team practice, you are seeing a lot more rubber I am guessing and then you are seeing game-situation drills which I think are real important not just for your team but for your goaltenders as well," said head coach Jared Bednar on Saturday following the second scheduled scrimmage of the team's camp. "You see some rust on [the goalies] but that's why you have the scrimmages and practice, and they are getting better and better here and I expect them to both be able to start strong here when we get to the regular season."

Goaltender Pavel Francouz has participated in all five days of training camp, but Philipp Grubauer's skate on Saturday was only his second with the team after missing the first three days following being assigned "unfit to play" status due of an undisclosed issue.

Both Francouz and Grubauer took part in voluntary captain's skates prior to the start of camp, but those practices aren't the same as the drills run by Bednar or what they'll see from the Blues.

"It's a little different scenario this year with no exhibition games, right? So every practice matters…. It's always different when you have guys and scrimmage," Grubauer said. "So definitely think today and tomorrow are going to be huge because after this, there's only one more practice or two, and then we're shooting real bullets here."

The Avalanche will hold its third and final simulated game on Sunday before taking the day off on Monday. The club will reconvene on Tuesday, with likely a cut-down roster, for one more practice before heading into its first game day of the season.

A benefit for Grubauer and Francouz in these final two scrimmages is the focus that is put on the power play. Colorado worked on special teams for the second consecutive day and made those situations a priority in Saturday's exhibition.

Video: Grubauer after his second day of on-ice work at camp

The increase in power-play time means an increase in a variety of shots faced, which in turns helps the two netminders get their timing in order.

"You are seeing a ton of shots from the goalie side of things. There is a lot of backdoor and a lot of lateral movement for them," said forward Tyson Jost. "I mean obviously I can't speak for what they are doing, I am not a goalie, but I know for us forwards and D-men it's that game-like situation stuff that is getting us back into game shape and it's going to get us ready for Game 1 against St. Louis."

SCRIMMAGE NO. 2

Head coach Jared Bednar mixed up his line combinations on Saturday, but the change was to ensure the players on his two power-play units were on separate squads.

"You can't really read into what we had for lines today because we picked the teams based on special teams that we were going to do in the scrimmage," said Bednar.

The day's session started with a short practice for the entire team, which was still split into two groups. The first one--made up of primarily the Avs' power-play units and penalty killers they plan on using during the season--worked on special teams, while the second did a short practice. Then came the roughly 40-minute scrimmage.

Team Burgundy won 2-1 in the simulation, with Mikko Rantanen scoring twice for Burgundy--including one on a breakaway from a stretch pass by Cale Makar--and Brandon Saad netting one for Team White.

Tweet from @Avalanche: Managed to get ahold of some goals for you!Mikko with a nice go ahead goal 😎#GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/kaM58d5b7D

"The pace is really high right now, and there is a lot of intensity and that is what you need with no exhibition games," said Jost.

Nearly a full squad participated in the scrimmage, as Colorado had 37 of the 40 players at camp take part in the day's on-ice activities.

"In order to give yourself the best chance to win the upcoming games, you got to be spending time together watching video, you know doing practices, getting their reps in," Bednar said. "It was scary for us right out of the gate to be missing [five guys] guys. The good news was that it's guys that have been around our team and know how we operate, know how we play."

SCRIMMAGE LINE COMBINATIONS

Team Burgundy
92 Gabriel Landeskog - 29 Nathan MacKinnon - 96 Mikko Rantanen
11 Matt Calvert - 41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - 25 Logan O'Connor
14 Shane Bowers - 91 Nazem Kadri - 61 Martin Kaut
10 Miikka Salomaki - 18 Mike Vecchione

27 Ryan Graves - 8 Cale Makar
34 Jacob MacDonald - 22 Conor Timmins
5 Dan Renouf - 88 Kyle Burroughs

39 Pavel Francouz
32 Hunter Miska

Team White
95 Andre Burakovsky - 17 Tyson Jost - 20 Brandon Saad
13 Valeri Nichushkin - 37 J.T. Compher - 72 Joonas Donskoi
36 T.J. Tynan - 15 Sheldon Dries - 44 Kiefer Sherwood 
12 Jayson Megna - 70 Nick Henry

7 Devon Toews - 49 Samuel Girard
9 Dennis Gilbert - 28 Ian Cole
58 Peter Tischke

31 Philipp Grubauer
30 Adam Werner

PP1: Nathan MacKinnon - Gabriel Landeskog - Mikko Rantanen - Nazem Kadri - Cale Makar
PP2: J.T. Compher - Andre Burakovsky - Joonas Donskoi / Valeri Nichushkin - Samuel Girard - Conor Timmins

EJ'S STATUS

While Philipp Grubauer, Gabriel Landeskog and Brandon Saad returned to the practice ice after being out for the first three days of camp and prospect defenseman Bowen Byram currently in quarantine after joining the Avs following his time at the World Junior Championship, Erik Johnson has yet to skate.

Johnson has missed all of training camp and was again absent on Saturday, with Bednar noting the defender is still "unfit to practice."

Video: Bednar on his defensemen and potential taxi squad

With just two practices and three days left before the opener, it's unlikely that Johnson will be able to suit up for the first contest. Taking his spot could be Conor Timmins, who is primed to make his second consecutive Avalanche opening night roster.

"Conor Timmins has looked fantastic, showed up to camp in great condition, looks bigger and stronger, more comfortable," said Bednar. "Put some of his injury woes behind him, had a great summer of training, and he's looked real good through training camp. There are a number of guys (in the mix for opening night), some of the guys that I didn't know very well… but right now for me I think the leader in the clubhouse is Conor Timmins, he's had a really good camp for us."

The only other skater at training camp that is currently "unfit" is AHL-contract defenseman Keaton Middleton, who is getting a second opinion after not passing his physical.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Defenseman Ryan Graves admitted it's been awhile since he got a haircut, and he's not planning on trimming his flow anytime soon.

"It's pretty long," Graves said of his hair. "It's just one of those quarantine things. You weren't seeing anybody so I just let it grow. But it's been a long time (since a haircut).

"We're going to let it ride for a bit and see where it goes."

Video: Ryan Graves after a training camp scrimmage

ONE TIMERS

Goaltender Philipp Grubauer on his first two days of practice:

"I felt really good. Obviously it sucked to miss the first three days but we practiced before. [These] practices are even important, but I'm really excited to get going again and can't actually believe that we're starting this (season soon)."

Head coach Jared Bednar on Grubauer:

"I think Grubi has been really good to this point, I think getting better as camp goes on. He had the few days off, and I saw him on the ice prior to camp doing some work, but the last two days since camp has started his intensity is up. He is making saves, you are seeing the leadership out of him like I would expect to see, along with Frankie (Pavel Francouz). I think they are getting better here as camp goes on, and they will be ready."

Bednar on if Bowen Byram can be on the taxi squad:

"We're getting updated information and new information daily. I don't know what the final say will be. It's my understanding that if the Western Hockey League plays, then he has to be on our active roster or back to junior, that was what I was told originally. So there would be no taxi squad for him. Now until they (the WHL) start to play, I think he can spend time on the taxi squad, just like anyone else we would have."

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