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5 Keys: Avalanche at Flames, Game 5

Colorado tries to advance with fourth straight win; Calgary scratches Neal looking to avoid elimination

by Aaron Vickers / NHL.com Correspondent

AVALANCHE at FLAMES

10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS, ALT

Best-of-7 series, Colorado leads 3-1

The Calgary Flames will try to avoid elimination in the Western Conference First Round when they host the Colorado Avalanche in Game 5 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday.

 

[RELATED: Complete Flames vs. Avalanche series coverage]

 

The Avalanche have won three consecutive games and lead the best-of-7 series 3-1. 

The Flames (50-25-7), who finished with the best record in the Western Conference and with their best regular season since 1988-89 when they won their only Stanley Cup, have been behind 3-1 eight times in franchise history and have never come back to win.

"We've been good all year," Calgary captain Mark Giordano said. "We've been a consistent team all year. We know we've won three games or more at a lot of different times during the year. It's one game at a time. We get tonight and we move on from there, but we have to focus on really trying to get back to our game."

Here are 5 keys for Game 5:

 

Avalanche trio rolling

Colorado's three top forwards have combined for 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in the first four games of the series. Nathan MacKinnon (three goals, two assists), Mikko Rantanen (three goals, three assists) and Gabriel Landeskog (three assists) have helped turn the tide in Colorado's favor by outplaying Calgary's best. Rantanen, who missed the final eight games of the regular season with an upper-body injury he sustained March 21 at the Dallas Stars, scored the overtime-winner in Wednesday's 3-2 victory in Game 4. 

"We've had a pretty good season and we're just carrying it over," MacKinnon said.

Video: CGY@COL, Gm4: Rantanen ties game late, wins it in OT

 

Flames top line struggling

Calgary's top line of Johnny Gaudreau (one assist), Sean Monahan (one goal, one assist) and Elias Lindholm (one goal, one assist) has produced just five points (two goals, three assists). The group, paced by Gaudreau's 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists) totaled 259 points (97 goals, 162 assists) in the regular season.

"We want to get going right from puck drop," Monahan said. "Tonight's obviously a huge game. It's a must-win."

 

Lineup shuffling

The Flames, searching for a spark, will make personnel changes up front. Sam Bennett will replace Lindholm on Calgary's top line, and James Neal, who has played in each of the past two Stanley Cup Finals, will be a healthy scratch. Lindholm will play on Calgary's second line with Matthew TkachukMikael Backlund, and Michael Frolik will skate with Mark Jankowski and Austin Czarnik.

"Obviously we haven't been getting the results," Giordano said. "Anytime that happens you're going to see changes in different spots. Bottom line is we need to find some energy and get back to our game."

 

Avalanche firing

No team was better at suppressing shots in the regular season than the Flames, who allowed the fewest shot attempts (41.3) and fewest shots on goal (28.1) per game. But the Avalanche managed 56 shots in Game 3 and 52 in Game 4 -- the two highest single-game shot totals in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not surprisingly, both ended in losses for Calgary.

"We have to have the puck more," Giordano said. "For us as d-men, it's felt like we've been defending way too much and we haven't had the puck enough. We haven't been able to get into the rush at all, really. You're defending and then you're changing once you get the puck out of your zone."

 

Sharp Smith

Flames goalie Mike Smith has done more than his fair share to keep Calgary in the series. His 49 saves in Game 4 are the fourth-most in a playoff game in Flames franchise history, and one behind the 50-save effort in Game 3 that ranks third. Smith, the busiest goaltender in the playoffs with 173 shots against, has a .931 save percentage. 

"He's been unreal," MacKinnon said. "He's been their best player. I think goalies feel better with a lot of shots, but we'll take 50 every game if we can get it. We've just got to keep shooting and hopefully some go in."

Video: CGY@COL, Gm4: Smith stuffs Landeskog's shot in close

 

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)

 

Flames projected lineup

Johnny Gaudreau -- Sean Monahan -- Sam Bennett 

Matthew Tkachuk -- Mikael Backlund -- Elias Lindholm 

Andrew Mangiapane -- Derek Ryan -- Garnet Hathaway

Michael Frolik -- Mark Jankowski -- Austin Czarnik 

Mark Giordano -- TJ Brodie

Noah Hanifin -- Travis Hamonic

Juuso Valimaki -- Rasmus Andersson

Mike Smith

David Rittich

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

Injured: None

 

Status update

Rantanen is expected to start with Soderberg and Wilson but will also play alongside MacKinnon and Landeskog. …Brassard is expected to miss his third game because of illness. …Czarnik will make his series debut, replacing Neal.

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