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NHL Stadium Series

Grubauer of Avalanche gets to play in NHL Stadium Series this time

Goalie will face Kings after being on bench for outdoor game with Capitals

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Philipp Grubauer took in the view while facing shots at Falcon Stadium during practice outdoors with the Colorado Avalanche on Friday.

But the goalie's focus will be on the puck Saturday when he starts for the Avalanche against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2020 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series at the U.S. Air Force Academy (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN360, TVAS2, AFN|sports2).

"It's really unique with the fighter jet in the background and one side (of the stadium) looks like it's 10 miles up," Grubauer said of the stadium, where the Air Force football and lacrosse teams play. "Yeah, it's unbelievable, really cool."

 

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Grubauer didn't get to play outdoors when he was the backup to Braden Holtby with the Washington Capitals in the 2018 Stadium Series at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. The Capitals defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2.

"It was a really unique game, a really unique venue at the [Naval] Academy," Grubauer said. "We were really lucky and grateful to play there. ... I think it's a great idea by the League to go from a military institution to a military institution. It's great to have the game out here, it's really awesome."

Grubauer has gone 8-3-1 in his past 12 games and helped the Avalanche challenge the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Central Division and Western Conference. They are second in each race, trailing by two points.

"He's a confident guy when he gets it and starts playing well and sort of finds a rhythm and plays better," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. "Everyone is trying to elevate their game and take it to the next level. He's been steady, he's been square, he's controlling his rebounds, helping our penalty-killing. He's a guy that we rely on to be one of our top players every day, and recently he's been that."

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Grubauer's parents, Peter and Suzie, arrived from Germany on Wednesday. His girlfriend, Isabell, also is here and had the chance to get on the ice after practice.

"I'm thankful they made the journey over here, and I think it's really special for them to watch the game," Grubauer said. "They usually watch it at 3 in the morning at home. For them to see the game live here is really cool."

The Avalanche play one mile above sea level -- 5,280 feet -- at Pepsi Center in Denver, but Falcon Stadium is at an even higher elevation. A sign warns visitors about the lack of oxygen at 6,621 feet.

"I felt it out there," Grubauer said. "I was asking for an oxygen mask after our skate. I don't know how many feet it's higher than Denver, and you feel every single one. But it was really fun, and the ice was really good."

It was a sunny day with blue skies and temperatures in the 50s after two weeks of frigid weather and snowstorms.

"I know it was a little bit warmer, so they expected the ice to be a little bit soft, but it was actually one of the better ones I've skated on," Grubauer said. "It was a little hard to see the puck with the sun and how it reflected off the ice, but just to be out there with the guys was a really special day.

"The stands are little bit farther away, so it makes it a little bit different for the angles. It's not the same feeling as in a regular rink, but today was a good practice to get adjusted. It's not a major difference."

Grubauer made 35 saves in a 3-2 loss to Washington on Thursday. He allowed three goals in his four previous starts, all wins.

"Today was the time to soak it all in, and [Saturday] it's all about business and preparation," he said. "We're looking for the two points we didn't get [Thursday], so we've got to make sure we win the next one. That's the one we need to win. It's such a special game that we want to walk away with a good memory and with a win here."

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