NHL playoffs 2019: Avalanche's Samuel Girard to return for Game 1 against Sharks

Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard, who missed the last three games of Colorado’s first-round series against the Flames with an upper-body injury, will return for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Friday in San Jose.

“It happens, some injuries, but they take care of me,” Girard said Thursday (via NHL.com) after he practiced wearing a regular jersey for the first time since he was injured on an open-ice hit by Flames forward Sam Bennett. “The staff did a great job, so I’m ready to go for the next game. It’s tough (not playing), I’m not going to lie, you always want to play, it’s so nice being in the playoffs. When you’re watching the games you want to be on the ice and help the team to win. I’m very happy to be back (Friday).”

Girard was part of Avalanche’s top pair on defense, playing the left side opposite Erik Johnson, when he was injured. Ian Cole took his place while he was out, but Avalanche coach Jared Bednar wouldn’t say what his plans were for Game 1 against the Sharks.

“Our pairs tend to switch a little bit,” Bednar said. “We have set pairs and they start together and they play together. Whether we’re up in games or down in games we try to get certain guys more ice time. Matchups are loosely based, but we have some guys who take a lot of pride in their defending and defending mentality and their penalty kill, and we have some puck movers who can really get up the ice and help us on the offensive side.”

Girard is one of three Avs defensemen who fall in the offensive side of the ledger, with Tyson Barrie and rookie Cale Makar.

In his second season in the league, Girard had 27 points (four goals, 23 assists) in 82 regular-season games, including four points (one goal, three assists) in three games against the Sharks.

The Avalanche have seven healthy defensemen and could scratch one against the Sharks or play them and use 11 forwards, according to NHL.com.

The Sharks, meanwhile, are likely to be without captain Joe Pavelski for Game 1. The veteran forward suffered a head injury when he took a cross-check from Golden Knights forward Cody Eakin and a subsequent bit of contact from Paul Stastny in San Jose’s 5-4 overtime Game 7 win over Vegas on Tuesday.

Coach Peter DeBoer told reporters Thursday he would call him “day-to-day.”