The Avalanche injury update on Thursday was perhaps as good of news as fans could have hoped.
Following a light practice, goalie Darcy Kuemper said he is “100%,” and Colorado coach Jared Bednar is hopeful forwards Nazem Kadri and Andrew Cogliano will return from thumb/finger surgeries and play at some point during the Stanley Cup Finals.
“It’s all taken care of,” Kuemper said of the upper-body injury that forced him out of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against Edmonton.
Kuemper, who has started Game 1 of all three series this postseason, was injured midway through Game 1 against the Oilers and was scratched in Games 2 and 3. He was cleared and backed up Pavel Francouz in the series-clinching Game 4.
Kuemper will presumably be the Game 1 starter against the Rangers or Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals, but Bednar, per usual, declined to disclose his plans.
The Avs coach is optimistic Kadri and Cogliano will play in Colorado’s first Cup Finals since 2001. Kadri sustained a broken thumb early in Game 3 against Edmonton and Cogliano went down with a similar injury late in Game 4.
“Similar surgeries, different fingers, thumbs. So both guys are back (around the team),” Bednar said. “Kadri’s in the gym this morning, doing everything he can to get back to being able to play and hopefully, both those guys, we’re hoping that, depending on the timeline, they’ll be able to make their way back into the Finals. We’ll see how it goes when they get playing and whatnot, but we’re hopeful that that could be an option for us.”
Game 1 of the Cup Finals is expected to begin next Wednesday (June 15) or Saturday, June 18, at Ball Arena. The Rangers and Lightning are tied 2-2 heading into Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday night. If that best-of-seven series goes the distance, the June 18 Game 1 option would have the Avs not playing for 11 days between games.
Bednar has a plan to balance the long break and keep his team sharp.
“(Friday) we want to get to work,” he said. “So on my work days, I want them to go out and I want them to compete against one another like we did in the breaks between the other rounds and make sure that we’re sharp and crisp and that our details are tight.
“They know that this is the trade-off for getting days off and getting more rest, so we have lots of time. Still not sure when our series is going to start or who it’s going to be against but it’s important that we put our work in on our workdays and then we’ll give them ample time to rest and get recovered before we go out again.”
Kuemper has now seen the Avs close out a series twice with Francouz in net. Kuemper sustained an eye injury in Game 3 against Nashville and wasn’t cleared for Game 4. He played all six games in the second round against St. Louis before going down in Game 1 of the conference finals.
“It’s never fun watching from the sideline, especially in big games, but Frankie came in and did a great job and it was great watching the guys go out there and get wins and handle the series,” Kuemper said. “It was nice to get back in the lineup for that last game and be a part of it.”
Footnote. Forwards Gabe Landeskog and Andrew Burakovsky and defensemen Devon Toews and Josh Manson took maintenance days Thursday and did not skate with the team. Defenseman Sam Girard remains out for the postseason with a broken sternum.