3 Keys: Avalanche vs. Stars, Game 3 of Western Second Round


No. 2 Avalanche vs. No. 3 Stars

10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS

Dallas leads best-of-7 series 2-0

Anton Khudobin will start his seventh consecutive game for the Dallas Stars, who will go for their sixth straight win when they play the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Wednesday.

Khudobin has allowed five goals on 71 shots (.930 save percentage) to win the first two games against the Avalanche. He made 38 saves, half of which came in the first period, in a 5-2 win in Game 2 on Monday.

“I haven’t seen a drop in his play in two years,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “We’re not surprised by what we’re seeing. The guys have 100 percent faith and confidence in [Khudobin], and he delivers.”

Pavel Francouz will start his second straight game for the Avalanche because Philipp Grubauer remains out indefinitely. Defenseman Erik Johnson also is unfit to play for Colorado.

As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information.

Colorado’s top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog has combined for 11 points, including all five of its goals, in the two games against Dallas. MacKinnon has scored three goals. Rantanen and Landeskog have scored one each.

However, coach Jared Bednar indicated a change could be coming to ignite the rest of the lineup, which has combined for four points, all assists, in the series.

“The one thing we’ve talked about, we’ve used since we’ve been here, is trying to move Landeskog away from [MacKinnon] and Mikko,” Bednar said. “They have a little something going on there, and [Landeskog] has historically, and since we’ve been here, has been able to help other lines beside [MacKinnon] and Mikko.”

Here are 3 keys to Game 3:


1. Colorado’s resolve

The Avalanche have been guilty of costly turnovers, missed reads and ill-timed penalties in both games. But they showed through the first half of Game 2 how they can control the puck, the pace and momentum when they play smart.

The problem is they fell behind late in the second period and did not respond well in the third.

“I don’t like what I saw in Game 1 and the second half of Game 2,” Bednar said. “For me to say I’m not worried about it at all would be a lie. But I believe in this team. We’ll come out, play hard, do all the right things.”


2. Stars’ offensive explosion

The Stars have scored 10 goals against the Avalanche, 17 in their past three games and 24 during their five-game winning streak. It’s quite a turnaround for a team that was 26th in the regular season in goals per game (2.58).

Bowness said this is reminiscent of how the Stars played earlier in the season, when they went 14-1-1 and averaged 3.38 goals per game from Oct. 19-Nov. 25. 

“The difference would be our [defensemen] are far more involved offensively than we were in November,” Bowness said. “We’ve been a streaky team, we get that, but the confidence is there that was there in November. We went into every game expecting to win and that’s our attitude right now.”


3. More than MacKinnon

The Avalanche need more than MacKinnon’s dominance to win a game against the Stars. 

They won in five games against the Arizona Coyotes in the Western Conference First Round largely because of their secondary scoring. They had 13 goals from forwards not on their top line and three from defensemen in the series. 

The secondary scoring has gone missing against Dallas.

“Our depth guys, myself included, it’s time to look in the mirror, time to produce and step up,” forward J.T. Compher said. “Our guys will be ready to step up and be that four-line team that got us to where we are now.”


Avalanche projected lineup

Andre Burakovsky – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen

Gabriel Landeskog – Nazem KadriValeri Nichushkin

Tyson Jost – J.T. Compher – Joonas Donskoi

Matt NietoPierre-Edouard BellemareVladislav Namestnikov

Ryan GravesCale Makar

Samuel GirardIan Cole

Nikita ZadorovKevin Connauton

Pavel Francouz

Michael Hutchinson

Scratched: Mark Barberio, Shane Bowers, Bowen Byram, Sheldon Dries, Anton Lindholm, Logan O’Connor, Conor Timmins, T.J. Tynan

Unfit to play: Philipp Grubauer, Erik Johnson, Matt Calvert


Stars projected lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinAlexander Radulov

Mattias JanmarkJoe PavelskiDenis Gurianov

Jason DickinsonRoope HintzCorey Perry

Andrew CoglianoRadek FaksaBlake Comeau

Esa LindellJohn Klingberg

Jamie OleksiakMiro Heiskanen

Andrej SekeraTaylor Fedun

Anton Khudobin

Jake Oettinger

Scratched: Nick Caamano, Ty Dellandrea, Justin Dowling, Joel Kiviranta, Jason Robertson, Gavin Bayreuther, Joel Hanley, Thomas Harley, Landon Bow

Unfit to play: Stephen Johns, Ben Bishop


Status report

Calvert is day-to-day and will not play in Game 3, Bednar said. … Bishop skated Tuesday but the goalie remains unfit to play, Bowness said.

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