Less than 24 hours after arriving in the hub city, the Colorado Avalanche has its first practice in Edmonton under its belt.
All 12 teams from the Western Conference checked into their hotels in Alberta's capital city on Sunday and began getting settled into the secure zone bubble before on-ice activities began on Monday.
The Avs practiced at Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre, about a 25-minute bus ride from the hotel. Head coach Jared Bednar said afterward that there were no roster changes during the session from the lineup utilized during the Phase 3 training camp with the top line featuring Andre Burakovsky, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen and the trio of Gabriel Landeskog, Nazem Kadri and Valeri Nichushkin remaining intact.
"Real nice facility, I think it is four sheets of ice and each team has their own locker room area where you get a couple rooms, a coach's room, a training room and their own gym area over there," Bednar said of Terwillegar. "I think it was two teams set up with each ice surface. We were over there and practiced at noon today, had a great skate and then we worked our way back here and that is the way it is going to stay for a while… It's a good setup at Terwillegar, great ice sheet and pretty easy to get to as well."
Back as a full participant at the practice was rookie defenseman Cale Makar, who missed a few sessions during Colorado's training camp before skating in a non-contact jersey on Saturday.
"I am feeling perfect now, should be back fully going here," said the rookie. "Had a really good practice today, not much else to report, just feel really good now."
Video: The Avalanche travels to its hub city in Edmonton
The Avalanche will be able to get a few more practices in and will play an exhibition game on Wednesday against the Minnesota Wild before opening its Stanley Cup Qualifier schedule on Sunday against the St. Louis Blues.
While they might know what to expect on the ice from their opponents, the team is still figuring out how everything works and what exactly life looks like inside the NHL's secure zone.
"Things are good, we can't complain at all. Obviously, it's a bit of an adjustment and it feels similar to like an international tournament almost when you are walking through lobby or elevators, seeing guys from other teams. Obviously during this circumstance we are all encouraged not to spend too much time with other teams and naturally I think that is what happens," said Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog. "We kind of stuck to ourselves and got familiar with the hotel yesterday and then this morning we headed out and we got a good practice. We will see what we can get up to this afternoon and walk around and get more familiar probably but also get some downtime… Things have been good and just like Cale said, we had a good practice this morning and guys ramped it up pretty good."
FACING THE WILD
For the first time since March 11, the Avs will face an opposing team in a game on Wednesday when they play the Minnesota Wild in an exhibition at 12:30 p.m. MT.
With only one exhibition contest on the schedule for each club, the teams are allowed to dress more than the typical 12 forwards and six defensemen.
"As far as our roster goes for the exhibition game, we are still contemplating a couple things, but if everyone is healthy and ready to go I would like to play a lineup that looks a lot like what we would go into the round robin with," said Bednar. "And then with the 13th skater up front and the seventh D, we might play a young guy or two in those positions or the next guy on the depth chart or both if that happens to be the case. We are still thinking about a couple of those scenarios and we will take all the time that we need before Wednesday to decide that."
In addition to helping with coaching decisions, the matchup helps the players to make sure they are ready to go when the puck drops in Colorado's first game of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the St. Louis Blues.
"Nothing is ever a given so you have to go out and prove it every day, and obviously some guys are going to have some leeway for things that they have done in the past but you still have to go out there and perform and show that you are worthy of your ice time and your spot," said Erik Johnson. "I think the game is important for that, and we don't have that much time before our playoffs actually start. Yes it is an exhibition, but guys are still trying to get roster spots. There is only so much time before we actually start the real thing. It is an important step in where we are trying to go."
On Sunday, Colorado announced its 31-player roster for the 2020 postseason, a list that featured several prospects, including forward Shane Bowers and defensemen Bowen Byram and Conor Timmins.
Bowers and Byram are the only players on the roster that did not appear in a game for the Avs in 2019-20 with Bowers spending the season with the American Hockey League's Colorado Eagles and Byram playing with the Vancouver Giants of the CHL's Western Hockey League.
Timmins made the Avalanche's opening night roster and played in the team's first two contests before spending the rest of the year with the Eagles.
"With the young guys, I touched on it in Denver, that Bowers and Byram and Timmins, those are three guys that we see playing a big role in our future," said Bednar. "All three guys showed really good at training camp, I think huge steps forward from when we saw them last. To bring them and have them go through this experience and possibly go into the lineup to help us win hockey games here I think is a huge positive. They put in the work, and I feel like they deserve to be here when it comes to a 31-man roster."