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Sharks not worried about matchups in Game 3 at Avalanche

Dillon, Karlsson prepared to play big minutes against Colorado's top line

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks might have to find a new approach to stopping the Colorado Avalanche's top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen in Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round at Pepsi Center on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer opted to use defensemen Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic against that line in Games 1 and 2. But being on the road means not having the benefit of the last change, and that could mean more time for the defense pair of Erik Karlsson and Brenden Dillon against the Avalanche's top offensive threat.

MacKinnon (one goal, one assist), Landeskog (one goal, one assist) and Rantanen (one assist) combined for five points in Colorado's 4-3 win in Game 2 that evened the best-of-7 series 1-1. They combined for two assists in San Jose's 5-2 win in Game 1.

 

[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Avalanche series coverage]

 

DeBoer said Monday that he's not worried about which defense pair plays against the Avalanche's top line.

"We're comfortable with whoever we end up out there against them," he said. "I think everyone knows what they have to do against them. You've got to trust your whole group at this time of year because you don't have the luxury of last change when you're on the road."

Dillon said he's ready for whatever happens in Game 3.

"For me and Erik, we love having the matchups this year," Dillon said. "We played against all sorts of top lines, [Edmonton Oilers' Connor] McDavid, [Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita] Kucherov and even in our conference, [Calgary Flames' Johnny] Gaudreau, so I don't think you're going to be able to rely on one line offensively or one line defensively in order to get the job done.

Video: Landeskog's two points help Avalanche claim Game 2

"I think it's going to have to be a collective effort. Not having the last change too, we're just going to have to worry about playing hockey. We feel comfortable out there. We don't want to just shut them down, we want to be able to make them play defense, which will make it tough to create offense."

Dillon said defending MacKinnon, who has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) during a six-game point streak in the playoffs, requires a special awareness.

"I think it's been MacKinnon's coming-out party, the first series against Calgary," Dillon said of the Avalanche forward's play in the five games against the Flames in the first round. "He was dominant. And in this series again, he's been getting things done. I think he's their heartbeat, and we obviously have to key on him with how good a player he is, but at the same time worrying about what we bring to the table."

Complicating matters for the Sharks has been the absence of forwards Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi in the first two games of the series. Donskoi missed Game 7 of the first round against the Vegas Golden Knights because of an undisclosed injury, and Pavelski sustained an undisclosed injury during Game 7 against Vegas.

Donskoi has been skating with the Sharks, but Pavelski, their captain, has not.

DeBoer provided no update on either player Monday, but he did say Pavelski's value continues to be felt in the locker room.

"He's always around," DeBoer said. "He's a great resource for me on everything, line combinations, lineup. He has a great perspective and a different perspective than as a staff. He has conversations with guys in the room, but a lot of that is just conversations with me and some of the things I get from his perspective."

After two games of getting to know each other in the postseason, DeBoer said the Sharks are ready to start ramping up their intensity.

"I thought after two games we have a pretty good idea of how each other wants to play," he said. "Now it's just about who can consistently do it for more time over the next five games or whatever it takes.

"I think now we're ready to get this series dialed up."

Dillon said the change in style from the seven-game series against Vegas to the first two games against Colorado has required some adjustments, but that good teams know how to make them.

"Game 1 was a little of a feeling-out process," he said. "It seemed like we played Vegas for 20 or 30 games in a row … with the overtimes, and now getting to see how [Colorado] is speed-wise, how they're an attack-off-the-rush team and Vegas was a team that got in and hit you and got the cycle on.

"It's just a different series. You're going to have to go through all types of different teams if you want to get to the Final."

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