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Key Game 4 questions for Sharks and Canucks

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Key Game 4 questions for Sharks and Canucks
Will San Jose's Game 3 momentum carry over? Who will fill in on D for Vancouver? NHL.com looks at some key questions for Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The turnaround between Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals is quicker than usual with the noon local time start in the Bay Area on Sunday.

The Sharks and Canucks, who lead the series 2-1, each skated at Sharks Ice on Saturday because Prince was gearing up for a concert at HP Pavilion. It will be the only time the teams take the ice before warmups for Game 4.

Here are the six questions we're thinking about heading into what is always the most pivotal game of the series.

1. Does momentum from Game 3 carry over into Game 4 for San Jose or Vancouver -- or does it even matter?

Players and coaches will have you believe that momentum doesn't carry over from one game to the next in the playoffs.

"I think throughout a course of a game itself I do believe in it, but throughout the course of a series, no," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. "Everybody watches video and they see what they can improve on and maybe exploit on the other side. I think it's a fresh start every time."

It's hard to argue with Boyle, who has played in 82 playoff games during his 13-year NHL career. But it's still fair to ask which team actually has the momentum in this series. The Sharks won Game 3, but the Canucks own a 2-1 lead and they scored two goals in the final 10 minutes Friday night.

Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa said if there were another five or 10 minutes on the clock, he believes the Canucks would have come back to tie the game.

So the Canucks feel good about their finish but the Sharks feel good about their win. Does that mean neither team has the edge?

"I know you guys (the media) have to write something, but we obviously have to win the next game," Boyle said. "We don't want to go down 3-1. That goes without saying."

2. Will Roberto Luongo shake his Shark Tank doldrums?

Luongo hasn't won in San Jose since April 7, 2007. He is 0-3-1 in the Shark Tank ever since, but he didn't even play here during the 2010-11 regular season and played only one of the two games on the Sharks' home ice in each of the three previous seasons.

So, maybe it's reading a bit too much into the situation, but you have to wonder if the building, the loud fans and the shark that hovers in the rafters above the ice are all in his head.

"You guys got those stats, you can find them all. Nothing goes by you guys," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said with a laugh. "I don't think that plays (into anything). I know it's been a few years, but I don't think that matters. If we can put 40 shots on him again I like our chances."

Luongo faced 38 shots in Game 3 and gave up four goals, but three were on the power play, including one in a 5-on-3 situation. He faced only 29 shots in Game 1 and 31 in Game 2.

3. Can the Canucks find their discipline again?

They weren't throwing punches after the whistle or ranting and raving to the officials or the Sharks' bench, but Vancouver did give San Jose 10 power plays in Game 3 after spending all their time with the media after Game 2 talking about how smart and disciplined they've become as a team.

If they're going to head home with a 3-1 lead in the series, the Canucks know they can't keep giving the Sharks power play after power play. San Jose's power play is 6-for-13 in the series and the players on it say they're almost expecting to score every time a Canucks' player goes to the box.

"Some of them were obviously 50-50 calls that could go either way, but the way they wanted to call it was tight and that's why we're in the box," Bieksa said. "It's up to us not to put ourselves in those situations. I don't think you saw guys taking retaliatory penalties. It was stick infractions, hooking and interference and roughing, stuff like that. That's stuff that is well within our control.

"Definitely have to be more disciplined. The referees want to call it tight so it's up to us not to put ourselves in that situation."

4. Who goes in for the Canucks on defense?

Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome probably won't be able to play due to injuries suffered in Game 3, so after flying in Chris Tanev from Vancouver early Saturday, the Canucks have three healthy defensemen and two spots available.

Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Tanev are the options.

At this time of the year coaches treat their lineups as state secrets and do not divulge much, if anything at all. However, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault did say Saturday that Ballard "probably" would get the opportunity to play and he referred to Tanev as being here so the team has seven healthy defensemen going into Game 4.

If you read into that, you can probably deduce that the Canucks third pair Sunday will be Ballard and Alberts with Tanev watching from the press box. However, since both are left-handed shots and Tanev is a righty, maybe Vigneault decides to go with the opposites so he puts either Ballard or Alberts on the left side and Tanev on the right side.

"We'll see tomorrow," Vigneault said with a smile.

5. Will Patrick Marleau's hot streak continue?

Marleau has the reputation of being a streaky scorer, and he's showing that now as much as he did in last year's Conference Finals.

Marleau has five goals over the last four games with two coming in the first period Friday night. He went without a point in the series against Detroit until his goal in Game 7 proved to be the winner – and he’s been lights out ever since.

Marleau scored five goals in the final three games of last year's Conference Finals against Chicago after notching only three in the first 11 playoff games. The Sharks got swept by the Hawks, but Marleau did his part just like he's doing it now for San Jose.

Marleau said nothing about his game has changed except for the results.

"It's amazingly the same, I think, unless somebody knows different," Marleau said. "I think it's going to the same areas and the puck is coming through and finding me, and I'm getting some breaks. It's a game of inches and right now inches are going my way."

6. Does Ben Eager draw back in, or does Jamie McGinn stay in for Game 4?

Eager's antics in Game 3 resulted in six penalties totaling 20 minutes in the box. He started to unravel when he rammed Daniel Sedin from behind to draw a minor penalty. Despite McLellan saying he likes the energy he gets from the fourth-line wing, Eager was scratched for Game 4.

McGinn came in, played a strong game and was actually responsible for knocking both Ehrhoff and Rome out of the Canucks' lineup. Of course, the hit on Rome drew him a five-minute boarding major and a game misconduct, and Vancouver scored twice on the power play to close to within 4-3 before time ran out on their comeback attempt.

So both players played with similar passion and energy, but they both delivered questionable hits that had to anger their coach. The only difference now is McLellan said Friday night that he really liked what he got from his fourth liners, including McGinn, Jamal Mayers and Andrew Desjardins despite the fact that they combined for only 16:44 of ice time.

"I thought they did a tremendous job," McLellan said. "I thought Desi and Ginner both went in and provided lot of energy. Jammer was a calming influence on that line. I felt comfortable using them. The way the night went, with so many power plays and penalty kills back and forth, it was hard to get them probably what they deserved, which was a little more ice time."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

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