No. 2 Avalanche vs. No. 3 Stars
6 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, SN1, TVAS
Dallas leads best-of-7 series, 2-1
The Dallas Stars look to extend their series lead against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 4 of the Western Conference Second Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Sunday.
It’s the first of a back-to-back; Game 5 will be played in Edmonton, the Western hub city, on Monday.
The game was rescheduled from Friday after the players on the eight remaining teams decided not to play as a form of protest against systemic racism and police brutality.
Goalie Anton Khudobin will make his eighth straight start for the Stars; he’s 5-2 with a 2.80 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in his past seven starts. Avalanche goalie Pavel Francouz wil start for a third consecutive time; he’s 1-1 with a 4.10 GAA and .873 save percentage in his past two starts.
Goalies Ben Bishop of Dallas and Philipp Grubauer of Colorado remain unfit to play. As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information.
Here are 3 keys to Game 4:
1. Building off momentum
The Avalanche responded with a 6-4 win against the Stars in Game 3 on Wednesday after the Stars won the first two games but they’re going to need more of the same over the next two days.
“I mean, we knew it’s an important game stepping into the game,” Francouz said. “Of course, it’s much better 2-1 than 3-0. It was a big one for us. Even the way we went into the game was huge. I really hope and think we’ll keep this momentum. We have to stay with it and keep winning.”
2. Gurianov finding niche
Stars forward Denis Gurianov has nine points (seven goals, two assists) in 12 postseason games, tied for third on the Stars and tied with center Joe Pavelski for the Dallas goal-scoring lead.
“He’s got tons of skill, he’s strong on the puck, shoots it a ton, he can skate,” said Pavelski, who plays on the second line with Gurianov. “When he gets that open space and that ice and time to use his shot, he’s as good as anyone. He’s found space to score goals, but he’s also shot the puck and been simple and direct. When he does that, he’s really effective.”
3. Dealing with injuries
The Avalanche have four players who are unfit to play. But Colorado (42-20-8, .657 points percentage) finished second in the Western Conference this season despite 224 man-games lost to injury.
“I think we have no choice,” Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon said. “We’re a good enough team to win. We were hurt all season. We don’t want to be hurt but have no choice but to put our best foot forward. Hopefully those guys get healthy, but we have to get through this round (without them). We’re down 2-1 and have a huge one tomorrow.”
Avalanche projected lineup
Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Andre Burakovsky — Nazem Kadri — Valeri Nichushkin
Tyson Jost — J.T. Compher — Vladislav Namestnikov
Matt Nieto — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Logan O’Connor
Ryan Graves — Cale Makar
Samuel Girard — Ian Cole
Nikita Zadorov — Kevin Connauton
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, Joonas Donskoi
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn — Tyler Seguin — Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark — Joe Pavelski — Denis Gurianov
Jason Dickinson — Roope Hintz — Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano — Radek Faksa — Blake Comeau
Esa Lindell — John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak — Miro Heiskanen
Andrej Sekera — Taylor Fedun
Unfit to play: Stephen Johns, Ben Bishop
Zadorov is expected to play after sustaining an injury in the second period of Game 3. He was on the bench but did not play in the third period.