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5 Keys: Avalanche at Sharks, Game 7

Experience, special teams among factors to decide who goes to Western Conference Final

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer



Best-of-7 series tied 3-3

The San Jose Sharks play the Colorado Avalanche in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round at SAP Center on Wednesday with a trip to the conference final against the St. Louis Blues on the line.

Neither team has won consecutive games in the series. The Sharks won Games 1, 3 and 5, and the Avalanche responded to tie the series each time with victories in Games 2, 4 and 6.

San Jose is 7-4 in Game 7 in its history, including a 5-4 overtime win against the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. Colorado is 4-6 in Game 7 since relocating from Quebec for the 1995-96 season.


[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Avalanche series coverage]


"I mean, when you're a kid, you never play Game 5," Sharks defenseman Brent Burns said. "You always play Game 7 and in overtime. That's fun. It's a great thing for everybody."

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer is 3-0 in Game 7. This will be the first Game 7 for Avalanche coach Jared Bednar.

"It's an elimination game, it's the exact same as the last game we just played," Bednar said. "The team has to play with a high intensity, a high urgency level."

The teams have played each other in Game 7 once, a 1-0 win for Colorado in the 2002 Western Conference Semifinals.

Here are 5 keys to Game 7:


1. Experience factor

The edge goes to the Sharks, whose players have combined to play 55 Game 7s, including the first round against the Golden Knights. Joe Thornton leads San Jose with seven Game 7s played. Joe Pavelski, who hasn't played since Game 7 of the first round, has been in six.

Avalanche players have combined to play 20 Game 7s. Forward Derick Brassard has played in six, and defenseman Ian Cole in three. No other players besides backup goalie Semyon Varlamov (four) and forward Colin Wilson (two) have played in more than one.

"As a series goes, the desperation and the execution level that's needed has to rise," Cole said. "And in a Game 7, an elimination game for both teams, that desperation is going to be at an all-time high. We just need to match it."

Video: COL@SJS, Gm1: Thornton beats Grubauer on odd-man rush


2. Return of Pavelski?

The Sharks captain is a game-time decision after he took part in the morning skate before Game 6 but did not play. Pavelski has missed six games with an undisclosed injury and didn't rule out a return.

"Yeah, [Game 7 is] a possibility, I think, and we'll see," he said Monday. "... But it still really is day to day, I think, and go from there. I wish we had a set-in-stone answer. 'Go here, do this and be ready.' We're just kind of taking everything into play."

Pavelski, who has four points (two goals, two assists) in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games this season, led the Sharks with 38 goals in the regular season.


3. Limiting offense from Sharks defensemen

Through the first six games of the series, Burns has eight points (four goals, four assists), Marc-Edouard Vlasic has three points (two goals, one assist) and Erik Karlsson has three assists.

Vlasic scored twice and Burns had one goal in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 6. Limiting their production will go a long way toward helping the Avalanche.


4. Top line for Avalanche

Prior to Gabriel Landeskog scoring in overtime, he and linemates Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen had no points, four shots on goal and were minus-9 in Game 6. All three were on ice for the winning goal.

In three losses, they have combined for three points (one goal, two assists). They have nine points (four goals, five assists) in three wins.

Video: SJS@COL, Gm6: Landeskog scores in OT to force Game 7


5. Converting on power play

Colorado is 2-for-20 on the power play in the series and 1-for-17 in its past five games; San Jose is 2-for-17 on the power play in the series. During the regular season, the Sharks were sixth on the man-advantage (23.6 percent) and the Avalanche seventh (22.0).

"For sure everybody's excited about Game 7 but we have to get the job done and we need all 20 guys, not just one line or a few guys," Sharks forward Tomas Hertl said. "We need everybody, because during the playoffs you can't just count on a couple of players. You need it deep down and you need everybody for that."


Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel Landeskog -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen

Colin Wilson -- Tyson Jost -- Alexander Kerfoot

Matt Nieto -- Carl Soderberg -- J.T. Compher

Gabriel Bourque -- Derick Brassard

Samuel Girard -- Cale Makar

Nikita Zadorov -- Tyson Barrie

Ian Cole -- Erik Johnson

Patrik Nemeth

Philipp Grubauer

Semyon Varlamov

Scratched: Sven Andrighetto, Mark Barberio, Ryan Graves, Vladislav Kamenev

Injured: Matt Calvert (upper body)


Sharks projected lineup

Timo Meier -- Logan Couture - Gustav Nyquist

Evander Kane -- Tomas Hertl -- Joonas Donskoi

Marcus Sorensen -- Joe Thornton -- Kevin Labanc

Micheal Haley -- Barclay Goodrow -- Melker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon -- Erik Karlsson

Joakim Ryan -- Justin Braun

Martin Jones

Aaron Dell

Scratched: Dylan Gambrell, Tim Heed, Lukas Radil, Radim Simek, Antti Suomela

Injured: Joe Pavelski (head)


Status report

The Sharks did not have a morning skate, so Pavelski's availability won't be known until warmups. ... Bednar said the Avalanche will use the same lineup from Game 6: 11 forwards and seven defensemen. ... Rantanen had treatment on his leg Tuesday after taking a hit from Burns in Game 6 and missing several shifts but will play.

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