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5 Keys: Flames at Avalanche, Game 4

Calgary has to get more from top players; injuries may force Colorado to shuffle forwards

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent



Colorado leads best-of-7 series 2-1

The Calgary Flames will try to even the Western Conference First Round against the Colorado Avalanche by winning Game 4 at Pepsi Center on Wednesday.

The Avalanche have won the past two games after losing Game 1.


[RELATED: Flames vs. Avalanche series coverage]


Teams that take a 3-1 lead in a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series own an all-time series record of 276-28 (90.8 percent).

Here are 5 keys for Game 4:


1. Avalanche may have to shuffle lineup

Coach Jared Bednar said some forwards are banged up and "we've got some game-time decisions" to make up front. Forward Derick Brassard is ill and will be scratched for the second straight game. The Avalanche don't have any extra forwards on the roster and would need to recall one from Colorado of the American Hockey League or dress seven defensemen.

Defenseman Samuel Girard will sit out again with an upper-body injury sustained in Game 2. He skated the past two days while wearing a non-contact jersey.

Rookie Cale Makar will replace Girard again. Makar scored on his first shot in his NHL debut in Game 3. He can become the first defenseman and second player in League history to score a playoff goal in his first two games. Rod Brind'Amour did it with the St. Louis Blues against the Minnesota North Stars on April 11, 1989, and against the Chicago Blackhawks on April 20, 1989.


2. Flames need bounce-back effort

The Flames were resilient during the regular season following losses when they allowed five or more goals, going 4-2-2 in the next game. They'll need that kind of effort again or face the prospect of heading home in a 3-1 series hole.

"This is the most energy we've had in a month and that's a very good sign for us," coach Bill Peters said. "It looks like we're back. We've got a little jump in our steps and we're going to have some fun tonight. It's going to take 60 minutes of hard work, if not longer, and I think we're prepared to do that."


3. MacKinnon's mission

Calgary hasn't been able to slow down Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon, who is determined to help the Avalanche win a playoff series for the first time since they defeated the Minnesota Wild in six games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals in 2008.

"That's my job, to step it up in the playoffs," said MacKinnon, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. "My legs feel good. I could play all night."

MacKinnon had two power-play goals and an assist in Game 3 after scoring in overtime in Game 2. He has three goals, one assist and 17 shots on goal in the series.

"He's been fantastic in all three games, especially Game 2 and Game 3," Bednar said. "He's been focused and dialed in every shift, no shifts off. When he's skating like that, he's a lot to handle."


4. Top players must step up for Flames

Calgary's first line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm has combined for 23 shots, one goal, three assists and a minus-6 rating. Defenseman Mark Giordano, a Norris Trophy candidate, has seven shots, one assist and is minus-3.

"No. 1, we all want to bring up our level of compete," Giordano said. "Looking at the team, guys are trying hard and putting in the effort. We're taking too many risks, especially when we get down. There's a lot of games left, and we have to be patient. We'll get better."


5. Stay out of the box

It's been a busy series for the penalty-killers. Each team has given the other 16 power-play opportunities (5.33 per game) in the first three games. During the regular season, the Avalanche faced the most opposition power plays (272), and the Flames were tied for 10th (246).

The Flames took 12 penalties for 50 minutes in Game 3, were shorthanded eight times and allowed two power-play goals. The Avalanche were penalized nine times for 26 minutes, were shorthanded six times and gave up one power-play goal, though Matt Nieto scored a shorthanded goal for the second straight game.


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 - TJ Brodie

Noah Hanifin -- Travis Hamonic

Juuso Valimaki - Rasmus Andersson

Mike Smith

David Rittich

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

Injured: None


Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel Landeskog -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Alexander Kerfoot

Colin Wilson -- Carl Soderberg -- Mikko Rantanen

Matt Nieto - J.T. Compher -- Matt Calvert

Sven Andrighetto - Tyson Jost -- Gabriel Bourque

Ian Cole -- Erik Johnson

Nikita Zadorov -- Tyson Barrie

Cale Makar -- Patrik Nemeth

Philipp Grubauer

Semyon Varlamov

Scratched: Mark Barberio, Ryan Graves

Injured: Derick Brassard (illness), Samuel Girard (upper body)


Status update

Valimaki will make his series debut, replacing Fantenberg … Bednar wouldn't reveal which changes he's considering among his forwards.

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