Mattias Janmark returns to lineup for Golden Knights in Game 5

A huge development as the series shifts back to Colorado for a best-of-3.

Golden Knights forward Mattias Janmark will make his return to the lineup for Game 5 of their second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

Janmark took part in the optional morning skate at Ball Arena, his first appearance on the ice since taking a high hit from Colorado defenseman Ryan Graves in Game 1. The incident came less than 48 hours removed from Janmark’s first NHL hat trick in Game 7 of the first round against the Minnesota Wild.

Janmark will return to his normal third-line left-wing position, skating with Nicolas Roy and Alex Tuch. Dylan Sikura skated in Janmark’s place in Games 2 and 3, while Keegan Kolesar assumed the duties in Game 4.

The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2 with the home team winning each game.

“Playoffs is about depth. We’ve known that,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “We’ve played without [Tomas] Nosek and Janmark pretty much the entire series. You need that if you’re going to have any type of success this time of year, because it’s a war of attrition.”

Vegas is starting to get its players back at the right time. Brayden McNabb returned for Game 4 after being in COVID-19 protocol during the Minnesota series. The defenseman played 17 minutes on Sunday, started against the Nathan MacKinnon line, and was on the ice for 17 attempts for and 15 against.

The Golden Knights also welcomed Ryan Reaves back to the lineup for Game 4 after serving his two-game suspension for roughing Graves in retaliation of his hit on Janmark. But Reaves will be a healthy scratch, and Kolesar will take his place.

Janmark’s return is a boost for a Golden Knights team that has every right to feel confident heading into a hostile environment for a pivotal game. After losing 7-1 in Game 1 and doing everything right but win in Game 2, a 3-2 overtime outcome, the Golden Knights responded with consecutive home wins; a come-from-behind 3-2 win in Game 3, and a dominant 5-1 result in Game 4.

The Golden Knights’ dominance over the last eight periods has been a result of aggressive forechecking, winning the puck battles and clogging up the neutral zone. A huge part of that forecheck has been Tuch, who’s looked like the best skater for the majority of the series. Janmark’s return could be a boost to a top nine that’s been stellar the past three games.