In a game Firebirds/Kraken coach Dan Bylsma simply and inarguably labels “massive,” his Coachella Valley charges will have some dos and don’ts for Saturday’s Game 5 in a tied Calder Cup Final that is a rematch of the American Hockey League championship round last season. That series went into Game 7 and beyond, with Hershey scoring in overtime to take the Cup on Acrisure Arena ice. This season, the final two games (Game 7 if necessary) will be back East in Hershey’s home arena. Storylines abound about the prospects of what is now a best-of-three series. Let’s drop the puck on this preview for Game 5 (6 p.m., NHL Network, AHLTV.com):

KJR's Everett Fitzhugh speaks with Firebirds' head coach Dan Bylsma and defenseman Ryker Evans ahead of tonight's Calder Cup Game 5 against the Hershey Bears.

One: Special Order: Stay Out of Box, Get on the Board

Coachella Valley provided the visiting Bears six power play opportunities in Thursday’s Game 4 loss as the teams are alternating wins in the first four contests. The Firebirds penalty killers were stellar on the first five, including some big saves from goalie Chris Driedger. But the last Hershey power play produced a third-period game-winner with two Bears forward net front without immediate company in the form of CVF skaters.

Along with taxing the PK units, so many penalties without a matching Bears player whistled significantly disrupts even-strength play. To wit, the Firebirds were more productive in 5-on-5 ice time Thursday, generating 44 shot attempts to 32 for Hershey. Plus, the Firebirds won two-thirds of the puck battles in the defensive zone, encouraging the transition to offense.

Then there is the Firebirds power play, which was zero-for-four Thursday and now stands with one power play goal in 14 man-advantage situations. CVF managed six shot attempts (five SOG) over the eight minutes of power play time. Make no mistake, the Firebirds coaching staff will be looking to rev up those stats.

Two: Home is Where the Bounce-Back Happens

Coachella Valley lost its first home game in this spring’s playoffs Thursday, spoiling a 6-0 mark. The players speak so highly of the local support down in Southern Cal and will be looking to reward the Firebirds faithful with a win on Saturday to set up two potential chances to celebrate with the Calder Cup. Several veterans will be looking to put pucks in the net in what is the Firebirds 2023-24 home finale, no matter who gets the “W.” Both Kole Lind and Devin Shore had Grade-A chances stopped by Hershey goalie Hunter Shepard, and no question will have a mindset to just keep testing the probability of such high-danger shots going in. John Hayden was clutch in the Western Conference series and figures to get more than one shot on goal Saturday. In the Firebirds net, goalie Chris Driedger, who likely would prefer another chance to stop Thursday’s deep-angle first goal, has bounced back to win the next game each time the Firebirds have lost a game this postseason.

Three: Racing to Four

CVF coach Bylsma has preached the expectation that all playoff series are highly likely to go the distance, in this case, seven games. He and his coaches plan for it and he encourages his players to not get too down on themselves after a loss. Hershey was flying in the first period, amped up by an injured alternate captain’s pre-game speech and the urgency of not going down 3-1 in the series.

“This is two teams trying to race to four wins," Bylsma said. "We expect it to go all 420 minutes. So, there's give and take, punches thrown each way and [Thursday] was no different.”

Coachella Valley’s impressive mix of veterans and prospects (the latter producing the two goals Thursday) will look to make Game 5 different in the right ways. Look for the Firebirds skaters to answer the energy call in early shifts Saturday with the usual high-decibel help from a capacity crowd. Getting a jump and first goal will likely be “massive” in itself.

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