No Semyon Varlamov
. No Erik Johnson
. No Jonathan Bernier
. Samuel Girard
? He’s a maybe.
As if playing in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Friday needing a win to stave off elimination in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series isn’t daunting enough, the Avalanche will need little-used third-string goalie Andrew Hammond
to come up big to keep their postseason going.
Coach Jared Bednar
said Thursday morning that Hammond would start Game 5 because Bernier is out with a lower-body injury. Hammond replaced Bernier, who started the first four games because Varlamov has a knee injury, to begin the third period Wednesday in the Avalanche’s 3-2 loss at the Pepsi Center
The Predators have a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
My NHL.com GAME STORY.
Bednar said Bernier’s injury is an issue that has been bothering him for a while. Bernier allowed three goals on 26 shots when the Predators took a 3-0 lead.
Hammond stopped all eight shots he faced in the third when the Avalanche staged a late rally with goals from Gabriel Landeskog
and Alexander Kerfoot
“It’s a great opportunity for Hammond,” Bednar said. “He’s been working hard since he’s been here. He hasn’t played a lot of hockey for us, but he’s jumped in some games and played really well.
“We’ve seen him catch lightning in a bottle before and win some hockey games. Hopefully he can do it again.”
Hammond, 30, was acquired from Ottawa on Nov. 5 in the multi-player, three-way trade with the Predators that sent Matt Duchene
to the Senators. He spent most of the season on loan to Belleville of the American Hockey League and played one game for San Antonio.
Hammond was recalled for the fifth and final time March 28 when Varlamov and Bernier were injured. He played his first NHL game in nearly 14 months that night after traveling during the day and made 31 saves in a 2-1 loss to Philadelphia.
“You always want to play meaningful hockey,” Hammond said. “Tomorrow night, it doesn’t get any more meaningful than that. From that standpoint, it’s very exciting to get the opportunity.
“For me to get my feet wet in the series was important, and overall it helps going into tomorrow night. It’s about trusting all your preparation, because especially at this time of year, you’re doing everything you normally would if you were playing, so from that standpoint, not too much changes.”
Hammond had an inkling he’d play Wednesday.
“As a fellow goalie, you can kind of see the signs that (Bernier) was hurting in there, so you start getting ready,” he said. “It wasn’t something that caught me completely off guard.”
Hammond’s production and playing time has diminished since his “Hamburglar” season with Ottawa in 2014-15 when he led the Senators into the playoffs with a 20-1-2 record and 1.79 goals-against average. He lost both of his playoff games that season.
“I got to play in a difficult building in Montreal then, and it’s something where going into Nashville I know they have a great crowd behind them,” Hammond said. “From that standpoint, I have a little bit of experience with that and can draw on that as well.
“You need to trust your experience, trust the things you do in practice.”
Hammond said working with goalie coach Jussi Parkkila
has been especially helpful.
“It’s been a big change since I got here,” he said. “In the past most of the goalie coaches I’ve worked with in the NHL and in the American League have been focused, I guess, with working with each goalie’s game whereas Jussi’s kind of gotten us working on the technical aspects in bringing things out of us that maybe we didn’t know we had.
“I guess I’d always considered myself to be a goalie that battles hard and it might not always look pretty, but Jussi’s kind of dialing that in where it’s more of a technical approach. It’s been great, it’s something that I didn’t necessarily know I had in me. We’re finding out the more you work at it, you can definitely add it to your game.”
Even Hammond was a victim of the injury bug this season. He spent two weeks on injured reserve in March to recover from a concussion he sustained when he was hit with an errant stick while sitting behind the bench.
Bernier, who earlier missed time because of two concussions and an infected cut on his hand, joins Varlamov and Johnson on the injury list; both have knee injuries.
Bednar said Girard remains day to day with the upper-body injury he sustained in Game 1 but is getting better and could be an option for Friday.
“We’ve had our fair share of injuries, but we can’t sit and cry about it,” Bednar said. “It is what it is, we have to move on and go get a win tomorrow night.”