Jared Bednar predicted that when the Colorado Avalanche got three key players back into the lineup, the dynamic of the team would change.
It is safe to say the Colorado coach knows his group pretty well after the Avalanche beat the San Jose Sharks 3-0 on Friday night. The return of goaltender Philipp Grubauer and forwards Mikko Rantanen and Joonas Donskoi from the COVID-19 health and safety protocol list gave the Avalanche a big boost.
They’ll try to continue that when the same two teams meet Saturday night in Denver.
Friday night’s win ended a three-game skid for Colorado (32-12-4, 68 points), but it came at a price. Two more players were injured — defenseman Ryan Graves (upper-body injury) and Samuel Girard(undisclosed) — so as quickly as they got players back, the Avalanche lost a couple of others.
Bednar said he didn’t have an update on the injuries immediately after the game.
“You don’t want to see those guys go down. We need them,” said Cale Makar, who had a goal and an assist in Friday’s win. “(Girard) eats an incredible amount of minutes, and Gravy’s just a super-steady guy for us.”
Rantanen and Grubauer made an immediate impact to keep the Avalanche’s hopes alive of winning the West Division. Rantanen had a goal and two assists, and Grubauer shook off a couple of weeks of rust to notch his sixth shutout of the season and 17th of his career.
Nathan MacKinnon didn’t record a shot on goal for the first time in 264 games but did surprise many when he got into a fight with San Jose’s Kevin Labanc after Girard’s injury.
The Sharks (20-25-5, 45 points) did show some fight beyond Labanc’s effort in the loss but still couldn’t get a goal against Colorado for the second straight game. San Jose has not scored on the Avalanche since a 6-2 win on March 1.
The Sharks are 1-4 in the first five games against Colorado this season and have been shut out three times.
They appeared to get one on the power play in Friday’s third period, but the goal was wiped away on a successful offsides challenge by Colorado.
“Grubauer made the saves he needed to make at the right times,” San Jose coach Bob Boughner said. “They got a boost back from Rantanen, Donskoi and Grubauer back in the lineup. They’re a good hockey team.”
San Jose has seen its slimming playoff hopes become even less likely. Two wins over Arizona before Friday’s loss to Colorado gave the Sharks a chance, but they trail St. Louis by seven points for the final playoff spot in the division and have played two more games than the Blues.
That hasn’t changed San Jose’s effort level, something Boughner commended after Friday’s game.
“We want to keep that fight right to the end here, no matter the situation, the team we’re playing or the score,” he said. “We want to stick together.”
–Field Level Media