Kevin Connauton will replace injured Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson in Game 2 against the Dallas Stars on Monday night in his hometown of Edmonton.
Johnson, who was injured in Game 1’s 5-3 loss on Saturday, is out indefinitely along with goalie Philipp Grubauer, Avs coach Jared Bednar said Monday. Winger Matt Calvert remains day-to-day but also won’t play Monday night at Rogers Place.
Connauton, 30, played just four games with the Avs this season, and 38 for the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League. The first-year Avs blueliner was Bednar’s choice to step in the lineup over Mark Barberio, Conor Timmins, Anton Lindholm and 2019 first-round draft pick Bo Byram.
“I really liked all those guys in training camp, including Bo Byram,” Bednar said after the team’s morning skate. “Connauton has played real well for us when he’s come in and I’ve really liked his training camp. The reason he gets the nod today: Big-body guy that can skate and he’s strong, and then his puck moving is one of the strengths of his game. The final thing, really, that I like, too, is his experience. He’s been here before. He understands where we’re at and this is a big game for us.”
Connauton has played four NHL playoff games, each with Dallas in 2014. He was drafted by Vancouver in 2009 but never played for the Canucks and was traded to the Stars in 2013 before he entered the league. Connauton also played for Columbus and Arizona, the latter in which traded him to Colorado last summer for center Carl Soderberg.
Connauton is a pending unrestricted free agent.
“I just want to play hard for the guys,” he said Monday after the morning skate. “Been working hard since I got back to Denver for training camp and since we got up here. Just keeping myself prepared. And ready to go.”
He added: “It’s been a bit of strange year, but it’s been strange for everyone. But here we are now, preparing for tonight. What’s happened in the past is kind of irrelevant. Everyone is on the same playing ground now and everyone is ready to go. Being from Edmonton, it’s kind of cool looking out seeing the city you grew up in. But not a ton of access to your family and friends. So that doesn’t really play a part in it. But hopefully, when it’s all said and done I’ll get to see them.”