Lightning doesn’t use elevation as an excuse in Stanley Cup Final

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DENVER — Visitors to Ball Arena are reminded of the altitude challenge they face as soon as they walk through the gates with a sign welcoming them to “Mile High City, elevation 5,280 feet.”

That reminder comes true during the first few innings of a hockey game, especially one as crucial as the start of the Stanley Cup Final. The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to feel it early in Game 1, though they came back to tie it earlier lose in overtime. They said they don’t consider elevation a reason why shouldn’t be able to tie the series on saturday night.

“It would be easy for everyone to use that as an excuse, but we got here early, had a good practice and were ready to go,” veteran defenseman Victor Hedman said Friday. “Now we had a few more days, but that’s not going to change the way we approach the game.”

Center Anthony Cirelli, whose job it is to follow Speedy Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnoncompletely ruled it out as a factor.

“The guys are going to come out and we’re giving it our all,” Cirelli said. “We just go out and play, and I don’t think it affects the way we play or we go out and just execute our game plan.”

The Lightning have been in Denver since Monday, which is still less time than it took for Josh Manson to get used to the elevation after being traded to Colorado from Anaheim. He described breathing on the bench after a long shift as if he expected his body to recover, but the recovery just didn’t come.

“It’s almost as if the air coming in isn’t really doing anything for you,” Manson said. “Practice felt harder, everything felt a little harder. But once you get settled in and acclimatized, that makes a big difference, for sure.”

The Avalanche could be getting one of their injured forwards back after veteran Andrew Cogliano was heavily involved in practice and skidded down the fourth row. Cogliano missed Game 1 of the series after injuring a finger blocking a shot with his right hand in the Western Conference finals victory against Edmonton on June 6.

“Cogliano is making progress,” coach Jared Bednar said. “He felt good enough to join the group today. We’ll see where he is tomorrow.”

The Nazem Kadri center is further away from returning. Kadri, who has been out since injuring his right thumb during the Oilers’ series, skated with a stick in his hands for the second day in a row but again he did not take any shots.

“Over the last few days, it’s been getting better,” Bednar said. “But I don’t have an update on him other than that.”

To get to his first Stanley Cup Final, Josh Manson had to go through his father, an assistant coach in Edmonton. The Avalanche swept Dave Manson and the Oilers in the West finals, and the two got to enjoy a moment on the handshake line.

“Just father and son stuff,” Josh said. “We didn’t break the game or anything. He was excited for me.”

Manson made an impact in Colorado’s Game 1 victory with some crushing shots, and his style of play bears some similarities to his father, who was also a great defender. Dave Manson is also one of the most penalized players in NHL history.

“Maybe you can’t get away with it today, but I try to get as much out of his game as I can,” Josh said. “I think we both play a pretty simple game, from what I hear. The less the puck is on my stick, the better I think. I don’t know how it went for him, but the less it’s on my stick the better, and the quicker I can get it into someone else’s hands, I think it suits my game.”

Lightning coach Jon Cooper praised Manson for picking up the ice and contributing to Colorado’s offense in the series opener.

“He’s in a rush, finding the holes and picking his spots to go,” Cooper said.

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