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'We're Still in the Driver's Seat'

Avalanche are staying confident in their belief as they lead the SCF 2-1 over Tampa Bay with Game 4 on Wednesday

by Sasha Kandrach @KandrachSasha / ColoradoAvalanche.com

The Colorado Avalanche are embracing the journey, and all of the adversity and tribulations that coincide with it. 

It's been a staple of the team's identity and a core of their belief since the beginning of the season back in September, to trust the process, their systems and most importantly, one another. 

Following a sloppy and uncharacteristic 6-2 Game 3 loss to Tampa Bay - and the Avalanche's first road loss in the entirety of their postseason run - on Monday night in the 2022 Stanley Cup Final, that belief was evident from Colorado's players, who were in relatively positive spirits after the two-time defending champions had trimmed their best-of-seven series deficit down 2-1 on home ice. 

Video: COL Recap: Avalanche lose Game 3 to Lightning, 6-2

''This is fun, this is awesome," Nathan MacKinnon said following the Game 3 loss. "Good or bad, we're not going to trade our spot with anyone. We've waited a long time for this. We're playing the best [team] right now. We're playing the best team, they've won back to back. We knew they were too proud to go away.

"They didn't hang their heads after losing Game 2," MacKinnon continued. "And we're not going tonight."

For the Avalanche, they knew going into the team's first Stanley Cup Final since 2001, that the task was going to be hefty as they would take on the accomplished Lightning that are looking to cement themselves as a dynasty with a third-straight Cup. 

So far during this postseason run, Colorado boasts the best record at 14-2 with their only two losses occurring in Games 2 and 5 in the Second Round against St. Louis, which the Avalanche responded on both occasions and winning the following game - both of which were then on the road. 

Video: Jared Bednar on not getting frustrated over Game 3

They'll look to utilize insight from that series as they approach Game 4 against the Lightning. 

"I don't think we have to look back any further than the St. Louis series," Avalanche Head Coach Jared Bednar said. "We had a couple of let downs in that series where we felt that we didn't play up to our potential. Not that it was all bad, but it was not good enough and our guys took it personal. We bounced back in both of those situations and won big hockey games on the road. That's something that's fresh in our guys' memories."

Now, with Colorado leading the series 2-1 and Game 4 on Wednesday night at Amalie Arena, the team is focused on executing its best effort yet. 

"We're still in the driver's seat," Erik Johnson said following the team's optional practice on Tuesday afternoon. "We knew coming in here it would be tough to win both. We knew they were going to come with their best game. For us, to get the split, we'd be sitting pretty good. We'd be happy with it."


UPDATES ON KADRI AND BURAKOVSKY 

Nazem Kadri joined the Avalanche for optional practice on Tuesday at Amalie Arena. Kadri skated and was shooting on net. 

It was a promising development as the centerman has been sidelined since Game 3 of the Western Conference Final after suffering an upper-body injury which required surgery. Bednar noted that Kadri has potential to return to the lineup in the Final.  

"He's been making some nice progress," Bednar said. "He was back on the ice out there today and skating. He was one of the guys who wanted to go out and put in some work. I believed he was one of the guys who was an option for us at some point. I'm not sure how soon."

The Avalanche are also without Andre Burakovsky, who did not play in Game 3 after suffering an undisclosed injury in Game 2 against Tampa Bay. Burakovsky did not travel with the team to Tampa and remains in Denver per Bednar. 

"[Burakovsky] hasn't joined us yet," Bednar said. "He's getting some treatment done back in Denver. If he doesn't skate today, he'll skate tomorrow."

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