CENTENNIAL, Colo. — The Colorado Avalanche can’t wait for the Stanley Cup Final, even though they’ll have to wait until Wednesday or Saturday to host Game 1 at Ball Arena in Denver.
“There’s obviously a lot of excitement,” forward Logan O’Connor said Friday. “You know, this is what you play for, this is what you dream about as a kid, so everyone’s really looking forward to the opportunity.”
The Avalanche swept the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Final with a 6-5 overtime win at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Monday.
The Tampa Bay Lightning lead the New York Rangers 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Final entering Game 6 at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Saturday (8 pm ET; ESPN, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS).
If the Lightning win Game 6, the Cup Final will start Wednesday. If the Rangers win Game 6, Game 7 of the Eastern Final will be at Madison Square Garden in New York on Tuesday, and the Cup Final will start Saturday.
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The Avalanche players aren’t studying the Lightning and Rangers closely yet.
“I know I don’t pay too much attention,” defenseman Devon Toews said. “It’s usually just on in the background while making dinner, hanging out with my family. I think most guys are tuning in, at least. I don’t know how much guys are looking into it, and we’ll do our deep dive when we figure out who we’re playing.”
With an eight- or 11-day break between games, the Avalanche have set a schedule of two days of practice and one day off every three days.
Toews and forwards Andrei Burakovsky and Gabriel Landeskog returned to the ice Friday after taking maintenance days Thursday. Defenseman Josh Manson took another maintenance day Friday. Forwards Andrew Cogliano and Nazem Kadri each remained out to recover from hand surgery.
“It wasn’t bad today,” Toews said. “I think our guys were pretty dialed in. We got some 5-on-5 stuff in today that guys didn’t get in yesterday. I think our guys are ready to go, and we’re excited, but we’ll take The rest as well. You can’t really hope for a certain amount or a set number of days off before you start playing again, so we’ll just take it day by day. “
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O’Connor said the Avalanche must stay focused on the process and what has given them success. They’re 12-2 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“We can’t deviate from what’s gotten us to this point,” O’Connor said. “I think that’s the biggest message. We’re here for a reason, and we’ve got to continue to, when the opportunity presents itself in a game, play like we’ve been playing, and I think we can have a lot of success in doing so.”
It helped Friday that the stands were full of fans at Family Sports Center, the Avalanche practice rink about 30 minutes southeast of Ball Arena, on a morning when the temperature was already in the 80s. The Avalanche have made the Cup Final for the first time since they won the Cup in 2001.
“We’re really thankful that some people find a way to go to the hockey rink,” goalie Pavel Francouz said. “I mean, you can be laying by the pool in this weather, so yeah, we really appreciate that. I think it’s fun. We always work hard in practice, but I feel like if there’s some people at the stands, you want to make sure you don’t get lazy or anything.”