The Colorado Avalanche took the ice at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, on Thursday morning in preparation for Game 1 of the team's first-round matchup against the Western Conference's No. 1 seed, the Calgary Flames.
Here is what some of the Avs players and head coach Jared Bednar had to say following morning skate.
Center Nathan MacKinnon
On Colorado RW Mikko Rantanen Returning To The Lineup: "He's going to be a 100-point player, so when you can get a 100-point player for the playoffs it feels like an addition. It feels like a trade addition that we didn't have to give anything up for and he looks great out there. He's worked hard getting prepared, I think. He probably could have played the last couple of games but he's fresh and he's 100 percent so we're lucky to get him back."
On Playoff Experience: "It matters, we have guys with a lot of experience. The last three Cups, we have guys that have won in our locker room and they're helping us a lot get ready for the playoffs. Brassard, he's one of the best playoff players in the last decade. Been to the finals, conference finals, all that stuff, so we're fortunate. I mean I don't have many (games), guys don't have many, but I feel confident that I can play in any situation and the more experience, the better, obviously. But we feel good, we have a good young group, we do have some veterans that have played a lot of playoff hockey."
Video: Nathan MacKinnon on the series with the Flames
Goaltender Philipp Grubauer
On Managing Emotions: "We've got to play our game. You can't be focused on the crowd, you can't be focused on some other stuff that's going on around you. So we've got to dial in and be ready to go and pay attention to what's going on, on the ice."
On Playing Calgary: "I've played them a couple times before, but it's not anything different than any other team. They've got a pretty good defensive core back there, they're really good off the rush, so we've got to make sure we play the right way in our zone and in the offensive zone with the puck. We've got to make sure we make the right decisions, be aware of who's on the ice. We all know who the important guys for those guys are, we all know they can make plays too so it's crucial tonight."
Video: Philipp Grubauer before Game 1 in Calgary
Center Tyson Jost
On The Atmosphere Around Canadian Cities: "It's nuts. It's kind of a different animal. I remember as a kid I was so excited when playoff hockey came around. I remember the Oilers when they went on a run and Calgary when they were playing Tampa in the finals. Just the whole city, the whole province rallies around the teams. The buzz and the excitement throughout the whole city. Some of the guys asked me about it, and I just told them how cool it was and how special it is. We obviously want to silence that noise and whatnot. It's going to be exciting for us to come in and play the bad guys."
On Previous Playoff Experience Last Year With Nashville: "It gives us a lot of confidence, a lot of experience. A bunch of us now have playoff experience, so it's nice to come into this series now with a little more confident, you know what to expect. It's just exciting. It's always exciting when playoffs come around. This is what you want to do as a hockey player, as an NHL player, you want to be in the playoffs every year. I know I'm really excited, I know the rest of the group is too, so can't wait to get at it."
Video: Tyson Jost on playoff hockey in Alberta
Head coach Jared Bednar
Video: Bednar before Game 1 at the Calgary Flames
On The Matchup Against Calgary: "It's definitely a different feel, mostly the same time of year, you're playing hockey--I think our guys are excited about the series, the matchup. We're playing a real good Flames team, so maybe that will present a lot of challenges for our team, but I think that you look at just what we've done here recently and how we got into the playoffs, the stretch run that we had, I think our guys should feel comfortable playing these guys and you can tell by how we were on the ice this morning we're excited. We understand it's playoff time and we're happy to have the opportunity tonight."
On Philipp Grubauer Starting: "Both of our goalies have done a real nice job down the stretch. Grubi just elevated his game to a whole another level here. He's given us a chance to win every night. He looks confident, quick in goal. He taking care of rebounds. All of the things we talk about a lot. Just based on what he's done over the last month of the season, he earned the right to start for us. It's never an easy decision, but I feel real confident in what he's done here recently."
On Nikita Zadorov And Momentum: "We have a number of guys like that, that can ramp up the physical play and this time of year you can see it. You watch the games that were on last night, the intensity and competitiveness and physicality of the games, it's from the drop of the puck. The thing I noticed last night watching the games is the home teams came out flying right off the bat and it's a real high intensity level. The pace, the physicality is there and we're here in Calgary so guys like Nikita can really help us in that. The other team's push, we have to be able to push back and really set the tone and change momentum. Sometimes it's by making plays and sometimes it's being physical and with Nikita, he can do both things."
On Mikko Rantanen's Return: "It's real important, I mean if you look at the season that he's had, the last couple seasons, we play him with Landy and MacK, they're an exceptional line, they're difference makers for us on the bulk of the nights and he's been out for a little bit, but we've really liked what we've seen from him in practice and it looks like he's back up to speed. He's had a week here to get back with our group and he's a difference maker, right? He can make plays under pressure, he's a big body that's hard to handle in the offensive zone, committed defensive player. Tonight he's going to play separate from Landeskog and MacKinnon, so that gives you depth on every line and I think that's really important, especially when you're playing a deep team with the way the Calgary Flames are."
On The Underdog Role: "I think that that's something we've talked about. I don't stress it too much because we entered the playoffs last year as a little bit of a surprise team, and we went out and had a real good series against a real good team in Nashville. Unfortunately, came up short and it just feels different to our group this year and we gained a lot of experience from that, now that we've been fighting down the stretch run, like we had to do again this year we're going into the first round. I think our guys have earned the right to be confident here because of the way we finished the season. All that, while knowing that we're playing the best team in the Western Conference, a real dangerous team, so we speak about being the underdog and embracing that and the things that come along with that. It doesn't squash our expectations on this series. I think that our guys should want a little bit more than they did last year and that means if you have to go in the first round. It's up to us to prove that we're somebody to be reckoned with and no better team to do than with the best team in the Western Conference."
On High Scores Against Calgary During The Regular Season: "I hope not. I'm sure both coaches are hoping not, it's hard to say. You look at games that you've played in the regular season, I would say no. Because the importance and the things that you talk about as a team is making sure other teams can't play to their strengths and both teams have some similarities that way, the speed and pace we like to play at and they like to play at. You have to check. Checking gets harder and faster and more physical and so it becomes harder to create. Teams are more committed because it's the playoffs, right? It's not October when we played these guys, there's more on the line, so I expect it to tighten up a little bit. Both teams were also very good at drawing penalties and having good power-play units, so discipline will also be a big factor in keeping the score down."
Quotes transcribed by Colorado Avalanche's Dan Vatch