Game 5 Notebook: Avalanche in 'attack mode' with Cup in the building

Sean Reynolds, Luke Fox and Ken Wiebe get us set for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, where it's looking like it will be all hands on deck for both teams, as the Cup will be in the building and the Avalanche will do whatever they can to get their hands on it.

DENVER -- These weren’t hollow words from Jared Bednar.

As the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche was peppered with questions about what it would be like to have the Stanley Cup in the building for an elimination game and how he and his group would handle the emotions of the moment on Friday, he stuck to the same song he’s been singing throughout the season.

His message: when you’ve got a consistent hit on your hands, why in the world would you expect the Avalanche to change their tune heading into their most important game of the season?

“You don’t preach it all year long and practise it all year long to throw it away at the most important time of the year,” said Bednar. “I’ll repeat it again, same thing we’ve done all year long.

“Listen, we’ve been in big games in the playoffs, we’ve been in games we felt were must-win games, we’ve been in games where we were playing from behind. For us, it’s about our process. We’ve been preaching that from Day 1, what do we have to do to be successful? You always hear about controlled emotion, I’m kind of the opposite with our team. I want us to use our energy and nervous energy and emotion to go play the game with passion, play hard and stay on our toes and get after it. That's my message to our team, has been all year.

“Our guys are clear on what that is. Now you have to go and execute it at an important time. it doesn’t change anything for us. We’ll break the game down in five-minute segments, we’ll focus on those things and get in attack mode.”

That ability to get in attack mode is one of the biggest reasons the Avalanche lead the series with the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1, leaving them with three opportunities to close out this series against the two-time defending champions.

Sure, there is margin for error but the last thing the Avalanche want to do is to leave the door open for the Lightning to rally.

Nerves are natural at this time of the year, as teams are so close to reaching the ultimate goal.

“I mean, you try to treat it like another day. But you're going to have thoughts, like you said, of different things that haven't been there all year,” said defenceman Bowen Byram. “But you've just got to stick to your routine, do what you've done every other day you've come to the rink. Just make sure that you prepare to play your best tonight.”

It’s sure to be a boisterous crowd inside Ball Arena, especially when you consider the Avalanche have not closed out a playoff series on home ice since 2008.

“The fans have been unbelievable all year, especially in the playoffs, and I don't think that we're focused on where we close it out,” said Avalanche forward J.T. Compher. “Just focused on playing hockey right now, and the rest will take care of itself. We just want to make sure we do get that fourth win, and tonight's an opportunity for us to do that. It's a great opportunity, and the boys will be ready to go and give it our best shot.”

All hands on deck for Tampa Bay’s must-win?

As head coach Jon Cooper said Friday morning, the Lightning will approach Game 5 as if “there are no more tomorrows.”

That means none of the Lightning’s many banged-up players have been ruled out of action, and we could well see the return of Brayden Point.

We watched the star forward limp around Amalie Arena after missing Games 3 and 4 with a suspected knee injury.

But Point was buzzing and looked sharp taking part in Friday’s optional skate, and we would not be surprised to see him draw in.

It sounds even safer to count Erik Cernak in.

The defenceman left Game 4’s overtime loss early with an undisclosed injury. He, too, skated Friday.

“Definitely a game-time decision with a few of our guys,” Cooper said. “Cerny is feeling better. I'm pretty confident he's going to play tonight.”

In the event Cernak is not available, bet on Cal Foote — son of Avs legend Adam Foote — to make his Stanley Cup Final debut.

Colorado’s game-time decisions

Avalanche forward Andre Burakovsky, who missed the past two games with a suspected hand/thumb injury, could return to the lineup after taking part in the morning skate with the main group.

Burakovsky left the ice and returned on three separate occasions, which leads one to believe he may have been dealing with an equipment issue.

Bednar has been guarded when it comes to his lineup decisions and that approach didn’t change on Friday morning.

“Yeah, he’s a possibility for tonight,” was the only hint Bednar would offer.

Nazem Kadri is expected to be back in the lineup after he was the overtime hero in Game 4.

Burakovsky scored the overtime winner in Game 1 and was flying in Game 2, chipping in a goal and an assist before he exited the game.

“He was playing really good before he went out. He plays with a lot of speed and skill and (he's) great at entering the zone and setting up scoring chances, and then he's got a heck of a shot,” Compher said of his frequent linemate. “I mean if he's able to go, we'd love to have him, if not it's what we've been dealing with all playoffs, just the next guy stepping up.”

Steer clear of Vasilevskiy

One of the things many observers are wondering about is if tonight could be the night that goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy steals a game.

Vasilevskiy is the king of rebounding, going 19-2 after losses during the past three playoff runs and while he’s had numerous moments of brilliance, he hasn’t flat-out stolen a game in this series -- yet.

Vasilevskiy has been applauded for his preparation at various points of this series, but how do his Lightning teammates deal with him on game days?

“Stay out of his way. He does what he does,” said Lightning forward Corey Perry. “I was just listening to Coop talk and he's right, (his process) really started after the game, it started yesterday. He gets dialed in and you just stay out of his way.”

Here’s how both teams are expected to start tonight, though there are a couple of game-time decisions that could lead to alterations.



Artturi Lehkonen-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen

Nazem Kadri-Gabe Landeskog-Valeri Nichushkin

Andre Burakovsky*-J.T. Compher-Alex Newhook

Andrew Cogliano-Darren Helm-Logan O’Connor


Devon Toews-Cale Makar

Jack Johnson-Josh Manson

Bowen Byram-Erik Johnson


Darcy Kuemper

Pavel Francouz

(*Nico Sturrm will play if Burakovsky is unable to go)



Ondrej Palat-Steven Stamkos-Nikita Kucherov

Brandon Hagel-Anthony Cirelli-Alex Killorn

Ross Colton-Nick Paul-Brayden Point

Pat Maroon-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Corey Perry


Victor Hedman-Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh-Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev-Zach Bogosgian


Andrei Vasilevskiy

Brian Elliott

When submitting content, please abide by our  submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.
We use cookies to improve your experience. Learn More or change your cookie preferences. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies.