CENTENNIAL, Colo.--With its opponent for Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs still unknown, the Colorado Avalanche continues to just focus on what it can control for now: itself.
In the conference semifinals, Colorado will face the winner of Tuesday night's Game 7 between the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights, one of three first-round series that will go to a decisive seventh game. Since winning its first-round matchup against the Calgary Flames on Saturday, the Avalanche has been able to rest and recover from the five-game set.
With another day without a game on Wednesday, the Avs' present five-day rest period between outings will be their longest break since nine days off for the NHL All-Star Game and bye week in late January.
"We've been playing playoff hockey since then and kind of do or die every game," said defenseman Erik Johnson. "Been rolling, playing well. You don't get too many gaps like this in the course of the season. I think it's a welcome rest for us. Everyone's playing with some type of injury at this time of the playoffs, so those will be good to get healed up for everybody."
Fellow blueliner Nikita Zadorov knows the focus will be on the second round soon enough, but for now the chance to reset and get some good practices in are valuable for the team.
"It's nice for us, nice work to get done," said Zadorov. "It's more probably recovery stuff, the system, it's more like get it down, sort it out. Obviously it's more fun to play games, but it's nice to get some practices in. We're hoping for a long run, and we need the energy."
For the second consecutive day, the Avs held a full-team practice at Family Sports Center on Tuesday while they await their opponent for Round 2.
Center Carl Soderberg re-joined the team and skated on the second line with Colin Wilson and Mikko Rantanen after missing Monday's practice due to an illness. Derick Brassard practiced for the second consecutive day after missing the last three games against the Flames while under the weather.
Samuel Girard (upper body) and Vladislav Kamenev (shoulder) each participated in the team skate wearing red, non-contact jerseys. Girard last played in Game 2 against Calgary on April 13.
Although practice times haven't been to overly long, Colin Wilson believes the team is benefiting from the focused sessions.
"I think it's been a good pace, good timing, so we're not going too long," said Wilson. "It seems to be the right pace and right amount of time, so it's keeping competitive out there and it's been good."
The recovery will be vital to the team's success and Wilson, the team's third-most playoff-experienced skater, looks forward to getting back to playing games. The forward has appeared in 58 career postseason contests, including a run to the Stanley Cup Final with the Nashville Predators in 2017.
"We got in the playoffs, we weren't just happy to make the playoffs and we got past the first round," said Wilson. "I don't think we'll be content with just making it this far, so it's a group that wants to win and pretty exciting to be a part of."
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov on momentum from first-round success: "For sure it's going to translate, we've got momentum. We beat one of the best teams in the NHL in five games, but we're a really confident group. We want to prove people wrong about us, and we believe we can win."
Center Colin Wilson on the team's mindset: "Last year I think for this whole group it was very big to get to the first round. We played some good hockey, didn't make it through, but I think this group knows what it takes. I'll definitely be there to help anybody if they want to talk about anything, but I think we've got a good committed group right now."
Practice Line Combinations
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Alexander Kerfoot
Colin Wilson - Carl Soderberg - Mikko Rantanen
Matt Nieto - J.T. Compher - Matt Calvert
Gabriel Bourque - Tyson Jost - Sven Andrighetto - Derick Brassard
Ian Cole - Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth - Cale Makar
Mark Barberio - Ryan Graves