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3 Keys: Avalanche vs. Coyotes, Game 4 of Western First Round

Colorado looking to solve Kuemper; Arizona will try to even series

by Rick Sadowski / Independent Correspondent

No. 2 Avalanche vs. No. 7 Coyotes


Colorado leads best-of-7 series, 2-1

Darcy Kuemper and the Arizona Coyotes will try to even their series with the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference First Round when they play Game 4 at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Monday.

Kuemper made 49 saves in a 4-2 win in Game 3 in Edmonton, the Western hub city. In seven games this postseason, he is 4-3 with a 2.70 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.

"He's arguably the best goalie in the League the last two years," Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said. "If he doesn't get hurt (Kuemper missed 28 games this season because of a lower-body injury), who knows, maybe he wins the Vezina. He's our rock. Everybody loves playing for the guy. He's an unflappable guy."

Philipp Grubauer is expected to start at goalie for the Avalanche after Pavel Francouz played in the second of a back-to-back in Game 3. Grubauer is 3-0-1 with a 1.73 GAA and .933 save percentage in four postseason games.

Here are 3 keys for Game 4:


1. Solving Kuemper

Colorado outshot Arizona 51-23 in Game 3 but was able to score twice on Kuemper. The Avalanche will look to keep up the pressure; they have a 119-69 advantage in shots on goal in the series.

"For me, the offensive side of it, if you stick with it, you'll find a way," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. "There are a couple of things that we can do. No. 1, we need to get into [Kuemper's] eyes a little bit more, keep a guy at the net. We've scored when we've had some traffic in there … and if you do it repeatedly, you're going to find a way to score. Am I OK with running into a hot goalie? Yeah, as long as we find ways to win the hockey game. A little more traffic getting in front of Kuemper isn't going to hurt."


2. Waiting on Kessel, Schmaltz

Arizona has had trouble generating offense against Colorado and needs more from forward Phil Kessel, who scored four points (one goal, three assists) against the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers but doesn't have a point in three games against Colorado. 

One player who could return and help the Coyotes get going is forward Nick Schmaltz, who hasn't played since sustaining an undisclosed injury in a 4-1 exhibition loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on July 30. Schmaltz scored 45 points (11 goals, 34 assists) in 70 games this season, and in 11 games against Colorado, he has eight points (three goals, five assists).

"Everybody's banged up, nobody's 100 percent," Tocchet said. "We're having a full day off (Sunday), so we'll see (Monday) how Nick feels. Really it comes down to that. We need a day off. He's been trying to get himself ready, but until he feels good to go, it's basically the same thing every day."


3. Taking advantage on the power play

The Avalanche were 4-for-16 with the man-advantage in the round-robin but are 1-for-9 with 12 shots in three games against the Coyotes. Arizona is 0-for-9 with 10 shots.


Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel Landeskog -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen

Valeri Nichushkin -- Nazem Kadri - Joonas Donskoi

Tyson Jost -- J.T. Compher - Andre Burakovsky

Matt Nieto -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Matt Calvert

Ryan Graves -- Cale Makar

Samuel Girard -- Erik Johnson

Ian Cole -- Nikita Zadorov

Philipp Grubauer

Pavel Francouz

Scratched: Mark Barberio, Shane Bowers, Bowen Byram, Kevin Connauton, Sheldon Dries, Michael Hutchinson, Anton Lindholm, Logan O'Connor, Conor Timmins, T.J. Tynan

Unfit to play: Vladislav Namestnikov, Colin Wilson


Coyotes projected lineup

Taylor Hall -- Derek Stepan -- Clayton Keller

Conor Garland -- Christian Dvorak -- Phil Kessel

Lawson Crouse -- Carl Soderberg -- Christian Fischer

Michael Grabner -- Brad Richardson -- Vinnie Hinostroza

Oliver Ekman-Larsson -- Jason Demers

Alex Goligoski -- Niklas Hjalmarsson

Jakob Chychrun -- Jordan Oesterle

Darcy Kuemper

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Brayden Burke, Kyle Capobianco, Michael Chaput, Hudson Fasching, Jordan Gross, Barrett Hayton, Adin Hill, Ilya Lyubushkin, Aaron Ness, Victor Soderstrom

Unfit to play: Nick Schmaltz


Status report

Bednar said Sunday that Namestnikov is day to day. He was injured in Game 2 and didn't play in Game 3. staff writer Pete Jensen contributed to this report

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