Avalanche center Nazem Kadri’s return “definite possibility” in the next two games – The Denver Post

TAMPA, Fla. — Nazem Kadri on Tuesday looked like a player prepared to play in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Avalanche’s preferred second-line center was among about 15 skaters participating in an optional skate at Amalie Arena and, save for slap shots, he was doing everything else along with fellow top-six forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog.

The four forwards came on the ice together and skated off together after 30 minutes of work.

Defenseman Erik Johnson was also on the ice with Kadri, who is recovering from a surgically repaired broken right thumb. The surgery was June 6, two days after he went down in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals at Edmonton.

“I’d expect him to be a definite possibility in the next couple of games,” Johnson said.

Colorado coach Jared Bednar supported those claims: “He seems to be getting better every day. I believe that he is an option for us at some point here. I’m not sure how soon.”

Kadri has 14 points (six goals) in 13 postseason games. He had a hat trick and four points in Game 4 against St. Louis in the second round and is one of Colorado’s best two-way forwards. Kadri’s possible return would reunite him with wingers Artturi Lehkonen and Rantanen and allow for J.T. Compher to move down as the club’s third-line center.

Kadri’s return would also help the Avs hide the hand/wrist injury to winger Andre Burakovsky, who went down in Game 2 against Tampa Bay. Bednar on Tuesday said Burakovsky never traveled here on Monday and remains back home.

“He’s getting some treatment back in Denver and I believe if he doesn’t skate today, he’s going to skate tomorrow,” said Bednar, who on Monday said Burakovsky was set to fly here and join the team.

Reviewing Cooper challenge. Per the NHL rule book, Cooper was under no specific time deadline to challenge the Avalanche’s first goal for offsides, a decision he won to take away Valeri Nichushkin’s goal.

Sixty-five seconds after the goal, the Lightning lined up for the face-off, but Cooper and his staff told the players to back off. He officially challenged the call 13 seconds later.

“It was probably three times the length we normally get,” Bednar said.

Said Cooper: “We’re at the mercy of the replays we get. I don’t know if I’m in the minority on this, but I don’t know if (challenging the goal call) should be in our hands. If it’s either onside or offside, I just don’t know why I have to make that decision when the stakes are this high. We were fortunate with the timing.

“In the end, everyone wants to get the call right and the right call was ‘offside.’ But it can be a little nerve-wracking because you just don’t know what (replay) feeds are going to come across.”

The total time from goal scored to goal waved off was 4 minutes, 58 seconds.

Tough grader. Cooper said his son has delivered letter grades for the Lightning’s first three games.

“He said, ‘Your first game was a borderline C-plus, second game was an F,’ and he gave us into the B’s (for Game 3),” Cooper said. “I feel we have more to give, but we are trending in the right direction. I know it’s similar to the (Rangers’) series, being (down) 2-1, but we still need to win the next one. It will be tough on us if we just sat here and said, ‘OK, we got one (win), we’re going to be OK (Wednesday).’ Each game gets tougher and tougher, but give the guys credit. They knew what they had to do and they did it, but now we have to do it again.”

Footnote. Cooper said center Brayden Point (lower body), who missed Game 3, is “doubtful” to play.

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