EDMONTON, Alberta — Avalanche defenseman Jack Johnson called it the “dirtiest hit in hockey” on Monday, but teammate Darren Helm and Colorado coach Jared Bednar were moving on from the one-game suspension assessed to Oilers winger Evander Kane on Sunday.
Kane will sit out Monday’s Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals while Avs second-line center Nazem Kadri will likely watch it on television from Denver after undergoing thumb surgery, a team source confirmed Monday. Kane’s suspension was a result of checking Kadri from behind and into the end boards early in Colorado’s 4-1 victory on Saturday in Game 3 at Rogers Place.
Kadri could miss the rest of the postseason but that’s yet to be determined.
“I haven’t even thought about the Kane suspension,” Bednar said after Monday’s morning skate. “It’s irrelevant for me, trying to focus on what we have to do in order to have success here tonight.”
That may or may not include bringing in goalie Darcy Kuemper as the starter. Kuemper went down with an upper-body injury in Game 1 but was a full participant in Monday’s morning skate. Pavel Francouz has backstopped the club to three consecutive wins in the best-of-seven series.
The Avalanche will sweep with a victory. If Edmonton wins, Kane and the Oilers will travel south for Game 5 on Wednesday at Ball Arena. Colorado is 11-2 in the postseason and wants to avoid another game in which Kane will be eligible to play.
“That’s what they decided,” Helm said of Kane’s suspension. “So I got nothing else.”
“It’s the dirtiest hit in hockey and we figured that some form of a suspension was going to come down,” Johnson added. “It’s unfortunate. Obviously, we’d love to have (Kadri) out there tonight, but it is what it is. When we saw him before he left he was in good spirits. He was positive and he’s going to do everything he can to get back during this run as soon as he can.
“And that’s everyone’s mentality — staying positive and staying focused and we got to keep going on and we’ll just keep our fingers crossed for him.”
Bednar could replace Kadri in a variety of ways. He could move Mikko Rantanen to center and add Andre Burakovsky to the lineup as Rantanen’s right winger. Burakovsky missed the last two games with an ankle injury but was a full participant in Monday’s morning skate. Rantanen often played center when Kadri or first-line center Nathan MacKinnon missed games in the regular season.
The Avs could also put two natural centers, J.T. Compher or Alex Newhook, with Rantanen and Artturi Lehkonen. Compher replaced Kadri in Game 3 when Colorado was down to 11 forwards and had the game-winning goal — his fifth score in a five-game stretch.
“We’ll have a couple options ready,” Bednar said. “Certain matchups that I like more than others against some of their talent and we’ll look at that. We do have a bunch of different guys that could go in there. And we could structure our lineup any one of a number of ways. We’ll pick the one that we feel suits the game tonight, and as we go through it and may need to change it as well.”
Avalanche Game 4 probable lineup:
Gabe Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon-Valeri Nichushkin
Artturi Lehkonen-Mikko Rantanen-Andre Burakovsky
Nico Sturm-J.T. Compher-Alex Newhook
Andrew Cogliano-Darren Helm-Logan O’Connor
Devon Toews-Cale Makar
Bo Byram-Erik Johnson
Jack Johnson-Josh Manson
Pavel Francouz, Darcy Kuemper (or Justus Annunen)
Available players: Forwards Nicolas Aubel and Jayson Megna; defensemen Kurtis MacDermid and Ryan Murray.
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