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Avalanche stay patient, have no preference for second-round opponent

Await Sharks-Golden Knights Game 7 winner

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- If the Colorado Avalanche have a preference for their next opponent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they aren't saying.

Having eliminated the Calgary Flames with a 5-1 win Friday in Game 5 of the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round, the Avalanche will play the winner of Game 7 between the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday.

"I think it should be a good hockey game, but for us it doesn't matter," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said Monday after practice. "As soon as you start wishing or hoping or cheering for a team and thinking you have a better matchup for a team, I don't think that's a good sign. We're open for both teams and we'll see who we get."

Video: Avs' top line rolls over the Flames in series victory

The Avalanche were 2-1-0 against the Golden Knights this season, 0-3-0 against the Sharks. Colorado has won two of four playoff series against San Jose but has lost the past two, most recently the 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals in six games. The Avalanche haven't played Vegas in the postseason.

"I don't know which would be a better matchup, they have their own strengths," forward Nathan MacKinnon said. "They're both really, really good teams, but we beat the second-best team in the League in terms of their record in five [games]. That's going to boost any team's confidence and we feel good.

"We had a good practice today and I think everybody's mind is in the right place. No one's comfortable, no one's satisfied, it's one round. I think the West is wide open.

Landeskog said he didn't know if players will get together to watch the game Tuesday.

"You never want to make it too big of a deal, but I'm sure a lot of the guys were watching the game last night (San Jose's 2-1 win in double-overtime)," he said. "I certainly was. We'll see what happens."

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said, "I kind of watch as a fan and try to pick up on things that each team is doing. We've seen both teams a number of times, so we know some of the challenges they bring to our team. We're trying to formulate a game plan on what we need to do against them to win, so that's always in the back of my mind, but I'm just trying to enjoy the games."

Without knowing who the Avalanche will play, Bednar said the focus in practice is for players to maintain the intensity they displayed against Calgary.

"We had a couple days off to get some rest, to get over some sickness that's been going through our locker room, some injuries, so we're moving in the right direction and getting healthy," he said.

Defenseman Samuel Girard, who missed the past three games with an upper-body injury, practiced Monday while wearing a non-contact jersey. Bednar said there's no time frame for his return. Forward Derick Brassard is healthy and practiced after missing the past three games because of illness.

"Staying sharp will be the focus all week," Bednar said. "The preparation for whoever we face is mostly done on video, so now it's staying sharp and not losing that competitive edge. We are making sure we have some competitive drills in there.

"The things that made us good in the Calgary series were that we were highly competitive and our details were good, execution was good. I want to see all three of those things in every practice this week."

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