The stretch run is back on.
After three games were postponed due to COVID-19 protocol, the Colorado Avalanche are again marching toward the playoffs, practicing Wednesday before a flight to St. Louis.
What's left of the regular season is set to resume against the Blues on Thursday night, the first of four straight games on the road.
“This stretch is usually the most fun to play, just before the playoffs,” veteran forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. “We’re just going to try to ramp up.”
Coach Jared Bednar said the team waited on test results Wednesday, the targeted day to return to practice. No new players were added to the team’s protocol-related absences list.
Though he’ll miss time, leading goal-scorer Mikko Rantanen’s situation was about a best-case scenario, at least for the moment. Rantanen was added to the list Tuesday, but Bednar said it was due to contact tracing and he’ll continue to be tested.
“He can’t come with us on the trip,” Bednar said. “He’s got to continue to get tested here for a little bit and then there’s a possibility he could meet us and be an option for us before the trip is over.”
Rantanen, forward Joonas Donskoi and goaltender Philipp Grubauer were on the protocol list Wednesday. Donskoi and Grubauer tested positive.
Bednar said Wednesday’s practice included 5-on-5 drills and special teams work. At a time they should be fine-tuning, the Avalanche looked rusty.
“I don’t think anyone, coaches included, were excited about getting this break but it is what it is,” Bednar said. “It's just a little bit of adversity that our team’s going to have to fight through.
“So now it’s rushing to get up to speed again and trying to get our game back in order.”
The Avalanche’s regular season was extended Wednesday as the NHL announced the fate of the team’s postponed games.
A game against St. Louis originally scheduled for April 20 is now April 26, and the game scheduled for that date against the Vegas Golden Knights is now May 10, two days after the former regular-season finale at the Los Angeles Kings.
Colorado now gets to close out the regular season at home. The Avalanche’s postponed two-game homestand against the Kings is now set for May 12-13.
Logan O’Connor was back on the ice in a regular contact jersey, Bednar said, and he’ll join the Avalanche on the road trip. Fellow forward Matt Calvert remains sidelined.
Bowen Byram was taken off the protocol-related absences list this week. Between that and recovery from an injury, the rookie hasn’t played since March 25.
Bednar said it hasn’t been determined whether Byram will do a conditioning stint before returning to the Avalanche, and how long it would potentially take.
“We're still trying to get him up-to-speed and get him ready to play games before we make any decisions on where he’s going to play,” Bednar said.