DENVER – In Thursday’s Game 1, the Colorado Avalanche tried to set a physical tone, especially against the Wild’s more diminutive players, Mikael Granlund and Jonas Brodin.
Both survived, but coach Mike Yeo urged both to better protect themselves and the puck in Saturday’s rematch “not only so you’re not getting run through the boards and running the risk of getting hurt, but also because that’s the right play to give you a chance to execute.”
“If you’re not protecting the puck and not protecting yourself,” Yeo continued, “it’s probably going to lead to a turnover.”
That’s what occurred before Colorado’s first goal in Game 1. Gabriel Landeskog pasted Brodin against the glass and moments later he scored.
“We want to finish our checks. Yes, there’s no doubt about it,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said when asked if his team’s game plan was to target such players as Granlund and Brodin. “We don’t try to [hurt them], but we want to finish our check. I think it’s fair and I think it’s the way the game should be played. And if these guys play big minutes, we want them to play big minutes.
“The more tired they’re going to be, I think it benefits of us.”
The point of finishing checks is not simply to create loose pucks. It’s to create wear and tear, and not just late in games.
“You finish checks hard because you want players on both teams to feel it the next day,” Avs defenseman Erik Johnson said.
Granlund, who returned to the lineup for Game 1 after missing the final six games of the regular season because of a head injury, said the hard hits “didn’t affect my game. That’s just hockey. You need to take hits. That’s playoff hockey. It always is.”
Added Brodin: “We knew it’s going to be a tough series. … You have to see which line you’re playing against. You have to read it. Sometimes you have to protect yourself, sometimes you have to take a hit to make a play.”
Kuemper replaces Bryzgalov in second
Goalie Darcy Kuemper, who was cleared to return during Saturday’s morning skate, ended up replacing starter Ilya Bryzgalov with 8:01 left in the second period after Colorado took a 3-1 lead in Game 2.
Bryzgalov gave up three goals on 14 shots. Kuemper stopped all 14 shots he faced, including eight in the third period.
Before the game, Kuemper said, “I feel on top of my game. All the rust I’d say is gone.”
Kuemper, who left a pregame skate injured March 31 at Los Angeles, said he actually got hurt a few days before but it got progressively worse. He wasn’t physically ready for Thursday’s series opener, even in a backup role.
“I think if I had gone in for Game 1 as a backup, if something would have happened I don’t think I would have been in the spot I needed to be to help the team,” Kuemper said. “These extra two days have helped me get back to where I need to be. … You don’t want to put the team in a tough spot by coming before you’re ready.”
The Wild hasn’t specifically said what happened to Kuemper. Asked if it was an upper-, mid- or lower-body injury, Kuemper joked that he suffered “a body injury.”
Fletcher makes his case to officials’ supervisor
Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher met with recently retired referee Don Van Massenhoven, the series’ supervisor of officials, on Saturday morning regarding a number of concerns the Wild had with the officiating in Game 1.
Most notably, the Wild felt the Avs, the faster, more-skilled team, tried to draw matching minors so they could get 4-on-4 situations. The Avs drew two, scoring on one.
“I think it’s a tactic that they’re trying to deploy,” Yeo said. “No question, when they’re down, of course they want to play 4-on-4 and open up a little bit more ice. We want to play hard between the whistles. Hopefully the people that are calling the game are aware of that and judging it the right way.
“We’re going to keep playing in-your-face hockey and as this goes on, we have to make sure we keep getting harder. We want to do it between the whistles. If they cross-check us, we don’t have to do anything back. We can look them in the eye and hopefully there comes a point where we can start getting on the power play.”
While Roy didn’t acknowledge a tactic of drawing 4-on-4s, he admitted, “We certainly don’t mind the 4-on-4, that’s for sure.” But he added: “We try to get away from the scrums. It’s not a good thing for the game of hockey. I know it’s good for players to show that they’re in the game. But we’d rather focus on playing a hard game and finishing checks.”
• Roy said he would be “very, very surprised” if first-line center Matt Duchene plays in this series. Duchene, who suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain, hasn’t started skating yet. Similarly, third-line center John Mitchell is day-to-day because of a concussion, but Roy says he hasn’t even begun riding an exercise bike.