All healthy for round-robin opener
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All hands will be on deck – well, on the ice – Sunday when the Avalanche play St. Louis at Rogers Place in Edmonton in the round-robin portion of the Qualifiers to determine Western Conference seeding for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Everyone was healthy, everyone was on the ice,” coach Jared Bednar said Saturday after practice, which he called a “glorified pregame skate.”
The Avalanche won’t skate Sunday morning because of the 4:30 p.m. MT start.
Bednar wouldn’t reveal whether Philipp Grubauer or Pavel Francouz will start. I’m guessing Grubauer, who played all four regular-season games against the Blues.
The Blues won the first two games, both in St. Louis, and the Avalanche won the last two, both at the Pepsi Center.
Defenseman Samuel Girard said he’s healthy and ready to go after missing the 3-2 exhibition win against Minnesota on Wednesday.
“I’m going to play tomorrow,” Girard said. “I feel good right now. I was back on the ice (Thursday). I’m feeling really good right now, so I’m going to be ready to go tomorrow.”
As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information.
Andre Burakovsky also practiced after he stayed off the ice Friday. He’s been playing left wing on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.
The Blues and Avalanche finished 1-2 in the West with 94 and 92 points, respectively, and points percentages of .662 and .657.
“We’ve gotten better playing against the Blues the past couple of seasons,” Bednar said. “If we play the way we can, we’re confident that we can win hockey games. The Blues are the defending champs, they’re a real tough team, an experienced team, they make it tough on you in all areas.
“The way we look at it is we’re going to have to be on top of our game, we’re going to have to be willing to check, play with some intensity and physicality, and make some plays.
“It’s good to get to play a meaningful game against such a good opponent because we’re hoping that’s going to bring out the best in our players coming out of camp and playing one exhibition game.”
The projected lineup:
Andre Burakovsky -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog -- Nazem Kadri -- Valeri Nichushkin
Vladislav Namestnikov -- J.T. Compher -- Joonas Donskoi
Matt Nieto -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Matt Calvert
Ryan Graves -- Cale Makar
Samuel Girard -- Erik Johnson
Ian Cole -- Nikita Zadorov