Help on the way as Avalanche continues chase for West title

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights. Avalanche-Golden Knights stream coverage begins at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

After a pair of defeats to the Blues, the Avalanche are looking to rebound Wednesday night as they continue to chase the Golden Knights for the West Division title.

There are reinforcements coming for head coach Jared Bednar, though he’ll have to wait a few more days to welcome them back to the lineup.

Joonas Donskoi, Philipp Grubauer, and Mikko Rantanen were on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list earlier this month, but have since been removed and are getting back their skating legs. Bednar said he expects them to suit up again Friday when Colorado begins a four-game set against the Sharks.

In the cases of Donskoi and Grubauer, both tested posted and missed four games. Rantanen sat for three games due to contact tracing.

[AVALANCHE-GOLDEN KNIGHTS COVERAGE BEGINS AT 9:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Devan Dubnyk and Jonas Johansson have handled the work in goal, but Grubauer’s return will be a welcomed sight.

“Trying to build him back up to be able to be the starter for us, hopefully Friday,” Bednar said of Grubauer’s recovery time. “He’s on the ice [Tuesday] for the first time. He’s been in the building with us for three or four days working out and working on his conditioning, strengthening of his groins and abdomen and everything he needs to do.”

Grubauer has been key to the success of Avalanche this season. His .921 5-on-5 save percentage is top-10 among goaltenders with at least 1,500 minutes played, per Natural Stat Trick, and his .855 high-danger save percentage is second to only the Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy.

A full-strength Avalanche team is a scary thought when you remember how dominant they looked during their 18-1-2 run before this little skid against St. Louis. Vegas has been on a run of its own winning 10 of their last 11. As of Wednesday, the Golden Knights hold a four-point lead over Colorado, but the Avalanche have a game in-hand. And not to be overlooked, the Wild are five points behind first place and have won seven in a row.

There are a number of playoff races around the NHL that will make the final few weeks of the regular season exciting. The West Division title fight is certainly one of them.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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