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Rantanen Could Return in Game 1

The forward missed the final eight games of the regular season with an upper-body injury

by Callie Parmele @CallieParmele /

The Colorado Avalanche could have all of its players available when the club begins its first-round playoff series with the Flames in Calgary on Thursday.

After missing the last eight games of the regular season with an upper-body injury, Colorado's second-leading scorer Mikko Rantanen participated in Monday's full-team practice in a red, non-contact jersey.

"He's been progressing just like we've hoped he would," head coach Jared Bednar said of Rantanen. "Today he's getting some contact, light contact, looks like he's doing everything unrestricted so we'll see how he comes in today. Looks like he's a potential player for us on Thursday.

"I would say we're going to this first round the healthiest we can hope for. Looks to me like Mikko's going to be ready, we got all our key guys in. Our roster is basically all available to us and that's the way you want to go into it. You know, you're never going to feel perfect at this time of year as a player, so you have to be able to go and play when you're not 100 percent. We will have some guys that do that, but so will they."

Rantanen posted career highs in 74 contests this season with 31 goals and 56 assists for 87 points and was ranked second on the Avs in points and assists.

Without Rantanen in the lineup, Colorado went 5-1-2 as part of an 8-1-2 stretch to end the year, which included a 10-game point streak.  

"I think you look around the league, some teams are kind of sputtering in or whatever and that is not the case for us, we are playing some really good hockey right now," said defenseman Tyson Barrie. "Our last 10 games have kind of been like playoff games with so much on the line. We are a confident group, we feel like we are playing really good hockey, we are getting some great goaltending. We are looking forward to the opportunity against Calgary."

The Avalanche was six points out of the second wild-card spot on the morning of St. Patrick's Day and used the point streak to clinch a berth to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Colorado has now earned back-to-back trips to the postseason for the first time since making 11 straight appearances from 1994-95 to 2005-06.

The Flames finished the 2018-19 campaign as the first seed in the Western Conference with 107 points and a 50-25-7 record. They also led the West and ranked second in the league with a plus-62 goal differential.

"Calgary's a real good team, we have to respect that and respect what they've done," said Bednar. "They have 107 points, they ran away with the Western Conference. They're second in goals for, top 10 in goals against. They got superstar players… We have to be ready to go and play our best, we know that.

"At the same time, I think that our finish to our season should give us a lot of confidence that we can go beat anybody... We want to make sure that we're aware of their strengths and weaknesses, but we have to play our game--play to the best of our ability and execute under pressure. There's going to be a lot of pressure in this series. Both teams can skate, both teams can make plays in-your-face style. We got to be prepared for that and be ready from the drop of the puck."

The Avs will have an off day on Tuesday before the squad practices ahead of its flight to Calgary on Wednesday.

Practice Line Combinations

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Alexander Kerfoot
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Colin Wilson/Mikko Rantanen*
Sven Andrighetto - Derick Brassard - J.T. Compher
Matt Calvert - Tyson Jost - Gabriel Bourque

Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie
Ian Cole - Patrik Nemeth
Ryan Graves - Mark Barberio

Philipp Grubauer
Semyon Varlamov

*non-contact participant


Left Wing Gabriel Landeskog on what changes in the playoffs: "It is hard to put a finger on exactly what it is but I think it just, maybe that is exactly what it is, everything changes. Every little detail and every little play matters, margin for error is that much more, intensity ramps up obviously, special teams are more important, all the power plays and penalty kills are going to matter that much more. I think that is it. Just everything intensifies and everything gets that much more intense. The crowd is going to be a big factor in both rinks I am sure, we are excited to get going."

Video: Landeskog after the Avs' first playoff practice 

Defenseman Erik Johnson on returning to the playoffs: "It means a lot. I've been here longer than anyone else has in this room. Almost a decade, it's a long time. I've mentioned previously, I've taken a lot of pride in being an Avalanche and I love playing for this team and this city and organization. I put a lot of onus on my shoulders, so it feels good to go back-to-back in the playoffs for the first time in a long time. Well that's a chapter that is closed, we still have some business to take care of. You never what can happen in the playoffs, it's a whole new season. It starts over and looking forward to having this group playing in the playoffs."

Video: Erik Johnson on making the playoffs

Defenseman Tyson Barrie on playing the top seed in the West: "Credit to them, they did a great job, they won the Conference, they are the first seed out of the west. We are not supposed to beat them but I like our team in here, I like our chances, I like what we have been doing the last month or so. They are going to have to play really well to beat us."

Video: Tyson Barrie talks Calgary Flames

Center Nathan MacKinnon on what makes the Avalanche dangerous: "I think everybody is kind of chipping in right now. It's a good time, everyone's kind of heated up. We have some explosive players that can make plays and create offense. We're a very fast team and when we get our north game going, our reloads going I think we're tough to play against."

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