After Nazem Kadri was out with an injury, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen moved into the middle to take his place and took a couple of hits on the backs of his legs from Edmonton’s Duncan Keith, who sent him onto the ice.
Rantanen got up, shoved Keith and got back in the game. He later scored the go-ahead goal in a back-and-forth Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, which the Avalanche won to sweep the Oilers out of the playoffs and play for the Stanley Cup.
The Avalanche didn’t come out of the series unscathed, but with Edmonton star Leon Draisaitl running on one good leg and defenseman Darnell Nurse recovering from a hip injury, they face the New York Rangers or defend backs Back champions Tampa Bay Lightning in next week’s cup final.
“It’s a battle of attrition,” said Jared Bednar in his fifth season as Colorado’s coach. “No one gets through without going through a few ups and downs and ebbs and flows to streaks, injuries and adversity, and it seems like the teams that get through it best are usually the ones that end up — or at least get into it finals are coming.”
After defeating Connor McDavid and the Oilers in four games, the start of this final is at least a week away, if not more. While Kadri’s left thumb injury makes him a long shot at returning, the extra time-out could allow the Avalanche to mend starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper and other players before they face their biggest playoff task yet.
The west final, spanning five or more games, would have risked more injuries for Colorado after winger Andre Burakovsky missed time to block a shock and each shift provided another opportunity for an extra shot in areas without padding was. The Avalanche certainly won’t scoff at the benefit of tranquility.
“A week off will help us with the battered players we have,” Rantanen said. “But we’re used to it. We also had a week off after the first lap, so this is nothing new for us.”