The Seattle Kraken apparently will have the opportunity to exploit the same 3rd defense pair of the Avalanche in Game-2 of their opening round series, based on the pregame warm-ups.
The Avalanche went with two righthanded D-men on the bottom pair in Game-1, with the veteran set of Josh Manson and Eric Johnson. The latter was an apparent late replacement for lefty namesake Jack Johnson who took warm-ups but didn’t play.
While Eric matched postseason career highs with five blocked shots and six hits, Manson struggled. Just back off long term injury, the rugged 6-foot-3, 220-pound 31-year-old wasn’t up to speed for Colorado in his club’s 3-1 loss on Tuesday night.
There were inklings on Thursday morning that plucky heart-and-soul veteran plug-in Brad Hunt could get the ice time on the blueline instead, potentially playing in just his 5th career Stanley Cup playoff game. The lefty would have added a little zip in terms of mobility, but it appears the concept was a little head fake by Colorado coach Jared Bednar.
The same D-men from Game-1 were on the ice for Game-2 warm-ups.
Will Kraken See A Line Juggle?
Despite the fact they combined for Colorado’s lone goal in Game-1, there was also chatter that Bednar might break up his top line and spread the wealth around. It might mean superstar center Nathan MacKinnon sees Valeri Nichushkin on his right wing, with Mikko Rantanen dropping down to play with J.T. Compher.
Naturally, Bednar wouldn’t reveal his hand on Thursday morning, while Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said any potential changes for the home team wouldn’t impact the Kraken’s approach.
“It’s not gonna change a whole lot of our rhythm,” Hakstol said. “We’ll see what they do, we’ll read that throughout the hockey game. I don’t spend a lot of time predicting what’s gonna come. We’ll see what comes tonight and we’ll be ready to react in whatever way we need to, but more importantly for us it’s about how ready our group is to play.”
They will indeed need to be ready. It’s no secret the Avalanche will come out flying on night two, focused on a fast start with the ultimate goal of evening the series.
“We have to be ready to build a win tonight,” Hakstol said. “We’ve gotta do that shift to shift, that’s where your momentum comes from tonight. It comes from the start of the hockey game and what you do from there.”
Feisty, veteran bottom-six forward Darren Helm took warm-ups. He hasn’t played due to injury since April 1st.
Of course, regardless of how the lines start out, both coaches can start juggling things whenever they see fit.
Off an excellent performance in Game-1, Philipp Grubauer will try to keep that momentum going between the pipes for the Kraken while Alexandar Georgiev is expected to get another start for Colorado. The Avalanche do have a strong option in Pavel Francouz, a key figure along the way in net with the Stanley Cup championship club last summer.
Note the time change. Game-2 is listed as a 7:30 pm start mountain time, 6:30 pm for listeners and viewers in Seattle.