Avalanche rookie Bo Byram in concussion protocol as tensions mount with Golden Knights – The Denver Post
Tensions between the Avalanche and its top West Division rival have become heated.
Two days after Colorado pounded the Vegas Golden Knights 5-1 at Ball Arena, Saturday’s chippy finale of the two-game set featured an early fight between Avs defenseman Dan Renouf and Knights winger Keegan Kolesar. The Knights ultimately won 3-2 in overtime.
Kolesar on Thursday delivered a questionable but unpenalized hit on Avs rookie defenseman Bo Byram, and the 19-year-old was scratched Saturday with an apparent head injury.
“Renouf gets in a battle and took exception of the hit the other night on Bo and he fights right away,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said after Saturday’s game.
Renouf, a journeyman playing in just his 12th game of the season, was replacing Byram. When Renouf isn’t in the lineup, the Avs certainly aren’t as physically imposing as Vegas.
Colorado has traded size and toughness for skill and speed this season — partly because of injuries. The Avs traded shutdown defensemen Nikita Zadorov in the offseason and Ian Cole two games into the season, and defenseman Erik Johnson is on long-term injured reserve, and forward Matt Calvert is on his third injury stint.
“Sometimes we could probably have more pushback but we play to our identity and play to our game and play physical when we need to,” Bednar said.
Renouf and Avs center Nazem Kadri had multiple heated moments with Vegas forward Ryan Reaves, perhaps the toughest man in the league. At the conclusion of the first period, officials had to separate those players standing between the benches.
As for Byram, the first defenseman selected in the 2019 draft (fourth overall), he could return for Monday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks or he could miss weeks or months.
“I’ve got him day-to-day right now but it could turn week-to-week,” Bednar said. “We’ll just keep evaluating him on a daily basis here. He seemed to be doing pretty good today but just not well enough to get in the lineup.”
Key overtime moments. The Avs had two bad breaks in the 3-on-3 OT.
First, a Vegas defender tripped Nathan MacKinnon in the Avs’ offensive zone. Referees didn’t call the penalty and the Knights had a 3-on-1 rush the other way. Avs goalie Philipp Grubauer made a great glove save to thwart the attack.
A minute later, a shot from Vegas’ Max Pacioretty broke the stick of Avs defensemen Devon Toews. When the puck caromed off the post and in the crease, Toews tried to swat it out of danger but instead, his stick snapped and Pacioretty tapped it in.
“I didn’t like the non-call on MacKinnon,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said of the first play. “Especially when it puts them on a 3-on-1. Like if that puck is squirting back out to our point man and they feel like they didn’t see it clear, fine. But to give them that opportunity to win the hockey game. Grubi makes a huge save on that and keeps us in and we mess up a little later but that could’ve been an opportunity for us to go on the 4-on-3 for sure.”
As for Toews’ bad luck, “It was sitting there and I was trying to play it with my stick,” he said. “Next thing I know my blade is in the corner. I thought I had the leverage on it. I thought I had the play but unfortunately, the stick let me down.”
Bottom line: The Avalanche (21-8-4) “won” the series by going 1-0-1 and is 3-2-1 against Vegas on the season. But the Knights (23-8-1) have a West Division-leading 47 points, one ahead of Colorado with a game in hand.
The teams will conclude their eight-game regular-season set April 26 and April 28 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
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