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5 Keys: Flames at Avalanche, Game 3

Makar to make NHL debut with Colorado; Calgary shining on special teams

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent


10 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, TVAS2, ALT

Best-of-7 series tied 1-1


[RELATED: Complete Flames vs. Avalanche series coverage]


The Calgary Flames and the Colorado Avalanche will play for a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference First Round in Game 3 at Pepsi Center on Monday.

When a best-of-7 series has been tied 1-1 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the winner of Game 3 has won 67.9 percent of the time (212-100).

"We feel really confident," Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon said. "We felt like we could've won both games. I'm not saying we should be up 2-0 or anything, but we feel really good as a group. Two games at home and we're in a good spot. I think any team that doesn't have home-ice advantage just wants to get that split."

Here are 5 keys for Game 3:


1. The Makar factor

Defenseman Cale Makar will make his NHL debut for the Avalanche in place of Samuel Girard, who is day to day with an upper-body injury sustained when he was hit by Flames forward Sam Bennett during overtime of Game 2. Makar will likely be paired with Patrik Nemeth. Ian Cole will replace Girard on the top pair with Erik Johnson. Nikita Zadorov remains with Tyson Barrie.

Colorado coach Jared Bednar hopes Makar will boost the power play. The Avalanche are 0-for-8 with the man-advantage in the series.

"I think he can," Bednar said. "That's one of the strengths to his game, the way he moves the puck, the way he shoots the puck, great vision. I don't see why he can't come in and step right in and help that."


2. Stingy goaltending

Mike Smith and Philipp Grubauer have excelled for the Flames and Avalanche, respectively. Smith has a 1.40 goals-against average and .954 save percentage in the series, including a 26-save shutout in Game 1, and is 11-1-4 with a 2.08 GAA, .931 save percentage and two shutouts in his NHL career against Colorado. 

Grubauer has a 2.36 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. He was 7-0-2 with a 1.63 GAA and .953 save percentage in his last nine regular-season starts.

"Absolutely, I tried to carry it over from the regular season, the way I played," Grubauer said. "I didn't change anything, I try to play the same way, prepare the same way. I think the last five games of the regular season show how you're going to go into the playoffs and we did a really good job."

Video: Reaction to MacKinnon's OT winner for the Avalanche


3. Welcome home

The Avalanche were 21-14-6 at Pepsi Center this season after winning a team record 28 games on home ice in 2017-18 but won their final six home games while outscoring opponents 23-11.

"The fans are amazing here, they get the towels going or whatever, so it's a great atmosphere to play in," MacKinnon said. "We've been playing really well here and we're excited to keep it going."

The Flames won't be intimidated. They were 24-15-2 on the road and won their lone regular-season game in Denver, 3-2 in overtime Oct. 13.


4. Top lines must step up

Each team needs more scoring from its top offensive players. Calgary's No. 1 line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm has combined for 17 shots but one goal and two assists. Colorado's top line of Gabriel Landeskog, MacKinnon and Alexander Kerfoot has 21 shots but one goal and one assist, each coming in overtime of Game 2.


5. Special teams

The Flames are dominating on the power play and the penalty kill. They're 3-for-10 with the man-advantage (30 percent) and have killed all eight of the Avalanche's opportunities. Colorado forward Matt Nieto scored a shorthanded goal in Game 2, but the Avalanche need drastic improvement in these areas.


Flames projected lineup

Johnny Gaudreau -- Sean Monahan -- Elias Lindholm

Matthew Tkachuk -- Mikael Backlund -- Michael Frolik

Sam Bennett -- Mark Jankowski -- James Neal

Andrew Mangiapane -- Derek Ryan -- Garnet Hathaway

Mark Giordano -- Rasmus Andersson

Noah Hanifin -- Travis Hamonic

Oscar Fantenberg -- TJ Brodie

Mike Smith

David Rittich

Scratched: Austin Czarnik, Dillon Dube, Jon Gillies, Oliver Kylington, Alan Quine, Dalton Prout, Michael Stone, Juuso Valimaki, Dalton Prout

Injured: None


Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel Landeskog -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Alexander Kerfoot

Colin Wilson -- Carl Soderberg -- Mikko Rantanen

Matt Nieto -- Derick Brassard -- Matt Calvert

Gabriel Bourque -- Tyson Jost -- J.T. Compher

Ian Cole -- Erik Johnson

Nikita Zadorov -- Tyson Barrie

Patrik Nemeth -- Cale Makar

Philipp Grubauer

Semyon Varlamov

Scratched: Sven Andrighetto, Mark Barberio, Ryan Graves

Injured: Samuel Girard (upper body)


Status report

Andersson and Brodie will switch defense partners … The Avalanche reassigned goalie Joe Cannata to Colorado of the American Hockey League.



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