Preview: Avs look to battle back in Game Two

  

With the condensed playoffs format, it is once again time for Colorado Avalanche hockey. Only two days after their loss to the Dallas Stars in Game One, the Avalanche will be back on the ice looking to tie this series at 1–1. Following their one and only loss to the Arizona Coyotes in the first round, Colorado had two seven-goal games in a row—we can only hope that their recent defeat by Dallas will have the same invigorating effect.

The 5–3 loss to the Stars on Saturday was a result of many things, not least the fact that half of the team seemed to be asleep on the ice. The defense was unable to communicate and the defense was unable to get firing, with the notable exception of the top line, who scored all three of the Avalanche goals.

On top of those problems, Saturday saw two Colorado players injured. Defenseman Erik Johnson left the ice twice during the game in pain and will be doubtful for Game Two. In addition, goalie Philipp Grubauer suffered a lower-body injury during period two, leaving Pavel Francouz to take over in net. Given Grubauer’s history with lower-body injuries, the remainder of the playoffs may be Francouz’s time to shine. Matt Calvert was also a sudden scratch for Game One.

The Avalanche should be going into Game Two with something to prove, which has historically served them well. The flaws from the last game can be addressed, as they mostly came down to the fact that the team was not fully engaged with playing the game. With a more cohesive defense and more presence from the bottom three lines, there should be quite an improvement.

The question of the full lineup is still a mystery, as someone will need to fill Johnson’s spot if he is indeed unable to play. A few names have popped up here, as the Avs brought a number of additional defensemen with them to the bubble, including young prospective players Bowen Byram and Conor Timmins. They also have more familiar names in Mark Barberio and Kevin Connauton, both of whom logged minutes with the team this year.

Players to watch

With Grubauer out indefinitely, Francouz will need to step up big going forward. He only has one official full playoff game under his belt, though he also played in one of the round robin games. That round robin game, coincidentally, was a shutout against the Stars. Francouz also played in Colorado’s sole loss against the Coyotes, allowing two goals. While it would be nice to see the same Francouz we saw during the first game against Dallas, there will still need to be a considerable defensive effort to back him up.

Miro Heiskanen has had quite a run so far in the playoffs for the Stars, posting 13 points in 10 games. He had an assist on one of the goals against Colorado in Game One and will likely be a large contributing force in Game Two. His contributions mainly come in the form of assists, so the Avalanche will need to shut down his opportunities to set up plays.

Despite it still being early in the series, Colorado needs to come out firing and tie the series here. Allowing Dallas to take a two-game lead will only serve to bolster their spirits, while an Avalanche win can rekindle the fire that saw them close out the series against Arizona.

Game Two will be at 7:45 p.m. MDT on Monday.

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    Lucas Rozell
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    With the condensed playoffs format, it is once again time for Avalanche hockey. Only two days after their loss to the Dallas Stars in Game One, the Av
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