Colorado Avalanche’s Nazem Kadri skates ahead of possible return; Darcy Kuemper remains in starter’s net

Colorado Avalanche’s Nazem Kadri skates ahead of possible return; Darcy Kuemper remains in starter’s net

TAMPA, Fla. — Nazem Kadri took morning skate with the Colorado Avalanche before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, indicating he could be available to return from a broken thumb.

It was the first team session Kadri had participated in since suffering the injury June 4. He wore a regular burgundy sweater and participated in drills with the Avalanche’s second power-play unit.

All signs point to Kadri being in the lineup against the Tampa Bay Lightning, though coach Jared Bednar would not confirm or deny that’s the case.

“He’s getting better every day,” Bednar said, when asked if Kadri would play. “If he can do all the functions that it takes to play a hockey game and is feeling comfortable with it, he’s a guy we’ll put back in. He’s been skating, legs feel good. It’s just about managing, I guess, the pain he’s dealing with.”

In other lineup news, Darcy Kuemper was in the starter’s net for the Avalanche after being pulled from Game 3. Colorado’s incumbent netminder allowed five goals on 22 shots before getting the hook and being replaced by Pavel Francouz.

Bednar said it was a “possibility” that Kuemper would start Game 4 and that if he did, there was no doubt the goalie could quickly turn the page from the 6-2 loss.

“Same with the rest of our team; I feel like he’s done a nice job with that,” Bednar said. “He’s followed up good performances with better performances. He’s elevated his game when we’ve needed him to this year. He’s done it all season long.”

Kadri was boarded by Edmonton Oilers winger Evander Kane in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals and underwent surgery June 6 to repair the damage to his thumb. The veteran resumed skating on his own shortly after and began shooting again this week.

When Kadri traveled to Tampa with the team Sunday, Bednar said he was “not sure” if the 31-year-old would be ready for Game 3 or 4. The fact that Kadri came along suggested it was a possibility.

Colorado could use Kadri’s contributions. The Avalanche’s offense dried up in Game 3 as Colorado’s series lead was cut to 2-1. Kadri is coming off a career-best 87-point regular season and had six goals and 14 points in 13 postseason games before being hurt.

The Avalanche are also missing Andre Burakovsky up front. The big winger suffered an apparent hand injury in Game 2 of the Final and did not make the trip to Tampa. Burakovsky had stepped in to fill Kadri’s void in Colorado’s top six and scored twice against the Lightning before the injury.

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