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5 Keys: Sharks at Avalanche, Game 6

San Jose looks to eliminate Colorado, advance to Western Conference Final for first time since 2016

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer


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

San Jose leads best-of-7 series 3-2

The San Jose Sharks can advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2016 with a win against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round at Pepsi Center on Monday.

The Sharks are trying win consecutive games in the series, something neither team has been able to do.

"Hopefully we can be the better team and get a big win tonight," Sharks forward Tomas Hertl said.

The Sharks won their only game with a chance to close out a series this season, a 5-4 overtime victory against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of the first round. This will be the first elimination game for the Avalanche.

"We all know what's on the line," Avalanche forward Matt Nieto said. "We are excited for the challenge. We have to dictate the pace right away and find a way to play with the lead and not let them back in it."

Here are 5 keys for Game 6:


[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Avalanche series coverage]


1. Play of MacKinnon

Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon was held off the scoresheet for the first time in the series and the second in 10 playoff games during a 2-1 loss in Game 5 on Saturday. He has five points (three goals, two assists), including each game-winner for Colorado in the series, and will need to be at his best for the Avalanche to force a Game 7.

"It's going to be an emotional game for us and we need to be ready," MacKinnon said. "The last 12 games (of the regular season) it felt like we could be [eliminated from playoff contention] at any time, so we're kind of used to it I guess. We know what desperation feels like. Obviously, we haven't been down 3-2 in a series, but we just have to win this game and let hopefully Game 7 take care of itself."


2. Sharks ability to finish

San Jose is 5-1 since 2016 with a chance to eliminate an opponent from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We don't want to play Game 7," Hertl said. "Game 7 is just one game, anything can happen, so you want to always kind of close it out if you can. We always find a way to step it up and play hard in those games."


3. Avalanche lineup changes

With forward Matt Calvert (upper body) out for the second straight game, Colorado will use 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the first time in the series. Defenseman Patrick Nemeth will make his series debut and forward Sven Andrighetto will be scratched.

"We'll mix some guys around a little bit and play the guys that are really jumping," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. "[Nemeth's] heaviness down low, being able to stop the cycle, is one of his strengths. Shot blocking is something he brings. Penalty kill, he's been real good for us all year."


4. Momentum carryover

The Sharks and Avalanche have alternated wins and losses in the series, with San Jose winning Games 1 and 3 and Colorado getting victories in Games 2 and 4 to tie it each time.

"It's just two really good teams that are going head to head," Nieto said. "We knew it wasn't going to be a series that was going to go four-five games. We knew it was going to go the distance and tonight we have to find a way to win to go back to San Jose."

Trailing the series 2-1, Colorado shutout San Jose 3-0 in Game 4.


5. Special teams

The Avalanche are 2-for-17 on the power play in the series and have scored one power-play goal in 14 chances in their past four games. The Sharks are 2-for-16.

Colorado was 5-for-25 with the man-advantage in the first round. San Jose was 8-for-34. Whichever team can capitalize on those opportunities likely will put themselves in a good position to win the game.


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)


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)


Status report

Pavelski will miss his sixth straight game. He skated with the Sharks for the first time since he was injured in Game 7 against the Golden Knights.


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