Avalanche's Burakovsky A "Possibility" To Return For Game 6

Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar stands behind players on the bench during the third period in Game 5 of the team's NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar stands behind players on the bench during the third period in Game 5 of the team's NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The status of a couple of key players remains uncertain for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Colorado coach Jared Bednar says there’s a chance Game 1 overtime hero Andre Burakovsky could return Sunday night following a three-game absence from the best-of-seven series. Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point figures to be a game-time decision for the two-time defending champion Lightning, too.

The Avalanche lead the series 3-2, despite being without Burakovsky since the forward suffered a hand injury blocking a shot in Game 2.

“Burky is still considered day to day,” coach Jared Bednar said in Denver on Saturday before the Avalanche boarded a flight for Florida.

“I think he’s a possibility for us, he’s traveling with us,” Bednar added, “so he may be in the lineup.”

Burakovsky scored in overtime to give Colorado a 4-3 victory in Game 1, then had a goal and an assist before departing Game 2, which the Avalanche won 7-0. He remained in Denver, while the team traveled to Florida for Games 3 and Game 4, and then sat out Game 5 at home.

Point, Tampa Bay’s leading goal scorer the past two postseasons, has been limited since suffering a lower body injury during Game 7 of the Lightning’s first-round victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Point missed 10 games before returning to the lineup for Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Overall, he’s missed 13 games of the Lightning’s last 15 games.

NOT SO NICE ICE?

Colorado’s Nazem Kadri opened his TV interview at the first intermission of Game 4 Wednesday by saying, “The ice is garbage” at Amalie Arena in Tampa. It didn’t seem to slow him down when he scored the overtime winner.

After the puck bounced around a lot in Tampa Bay’s victory in Game 5 that prolonged the series, the teams return to humid Florida to contend with potentially more difficult conditions again.

“The ice, I think, is different than in Colorado,” Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson said Saturday before traveling from Denver to Tampa. “It is very humid there, and I know it’s tough to manage. It feels like the game gets maybe a little bit choppier at times, so you’ve got to look after the puck a little bit better. But both teams are playing on it, so it’s the same for both of us.”

It’s not the pristine Edmonton ice the Lightning skated on in the final two rounds in the bubble to win the Stanley Cup two years ago, but Ryan McDonagh and his teammates are plenty familiar with what it’s like in Tampa.

“We’re pretty comfortable on that ice,” McDonagh said. “I haven’t noticed too much of a difference.”

EXPERIENCE MATTERS

The Lightning, who only faced possible elimination once during back-to-back championship runs in 2020 and 2021, are 3-0 in such games this postseason.

They are the second team in NHL history to win at least four consecutive games when facing possible elimination. The Chicago Blackhawks won four in a row from 2013 to 2014.

Tampa Bay overcame a 3-2 series deficit to oust Toronto In the first round and rallied from down 2-0 to defeat the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference final.

The Lightning have won 11 consecutive playoff series. In addition to knowing what type of mindset it takes to stave off elimination, the defending champion also have a pretty idea what the Avalanche feel they need to clinch the title.

“Experience matters. ... Not guaranteeing we’re going to win tomorrow,” Cooper said. “But I think our mindset, and being in these situations before, makes our preparation better.”

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AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.

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