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Second Round

Girard to play for Avalanche in Game 1 of second round against Sharks

Defenseman missed final three games against Flames with upper-body injury

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Samuel Girard will return to the Colorado Avalanche lineup for Game 1 of the best-of-7 Western Conference Second Round against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Friday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVAS).

The defenseman missed the final three games against the Calgary Flames in the first round after sustaining an upper-body injury in Game 2. Colorado advanced with a 5-1 win in Game 5 on April 19.

"It happens, some injuries, but they take care of me," Girard said Thursday after he practiced wearing a regular jersey for the first time since he was injured on an open-ice hit by Flames forward Sam Bennett.

"The staff did a great job, so I'm ready to go for the next game. It's tough (not playing), I'm not going to lie, you always want to play, it's so nice being in the playoffs. When you're watching the games you want to be on the ice and help the team to win. I'm very happy to be back tomorrow."


[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Avalanche series coverage]


Girard was playing the left side with Erik Johnson on the top defense pair when he was injured. Ian Cole replaced him against Calgary, but Avalanche coach Jared Bednar wouldn't reveal his plans for Friday.

"Our pairs tend to switch a little bit," Bednar said. "We have set pairs and they start together and they play together. Whether we're up in games or down in games we try to get certain guys more ice time. Matchups are loosely based, but we have some guys who take a lot of pride in their defending and defending mentality and their penalty kill, and we have some puck movers who can really get up the ice and help us on the offensive side."

Girard is in the latter category, along with Tyson Barrie and rookie Cale Makar. He had 27 points (four goals, 23 assists) in 82 games this season, his second in the NHL. He had four points (one goal, three assists) in three games against the Sharks.

"He's been a force all season for us," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "He's taken it step by step and grown as a player and as a person off the ice too. It's not easy to break into the League that young, but he's taken it in stride and he's figuring out how to be successful on the ice. … He's gotten really good at picking his spots."

The Avalanche have seven healthy defensemen now and could scratch one against the Sharks or play them all and use 11 forwards.

Forward Derick Brassard also is available for Game 1 after missing the final three games against the Flames with an illness.

"I'm not going to give (the media) our lineup before I give our players our lineup," Bednar said. "Tough decisions, but they're good decisions to make this time of year because it's all about team and winning."

The Avalanche worked on special teams Thursday, and Girard and Makar manned the points on the second power-play unit. Makar had two points (one goal, one assist) in three games against the Flames after leaving the University of Massachusetts to sign his entry-level contract April 14.

"Not really an audition, just trying to keep guys involved in the practice," Bednar said. "We know what we're going to do on that unit and we have some good options. Whether you're a new guy coming in like Makar or a guy like Girard who's been with us all year, the guys that have been here all year built some trust and have done a nice job. But if we feel someone can come in and help us in certain areas, then that's what we're going to do, forward or defense."

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