3 Keys: Avalanche at Blues, Game 3 of first round

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No. 1 Avalanche at No. 4 Blues

9:30 p.m. ET; USA, SN360, TVAS2, BSMW, ALT

Colorado leads best-of-7 series, 2-0

The Colorado Avalanche will try to extend their lead against the St. Louis Blues when they play Game 3 of the Stanley Cup First Round at Enterprise Center on Friday.

Colorado leads the best-of-7 series 2-0 after a 6-3 win in Game 2 on Wednesday. When winning the first two games of a best-of-7 series, the Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques have won 13 of 16 series, 13 of 14 since moving to Colorado for the 1995-96 season.

The Avalanche have been led by their top line of forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, who have combined for 16 points (six goals, 10 assists), 12 even-strength points (five goals, seven assists) and 26 shots on goal.

MacKinnon leads the NHL in goals (five) and points (seven) in the playoffs, including a hat trick in Game 2. He has scored 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 17 playoff games the past two seasons.

“I don’t know if I’m at another level or pucks or going in right now,” MacKinnon said. “I mean, all my goals are with great screens in front. ‘Landy’ [and] ‘Mikko’ are beasts down low. Without those guys battling and mucking it up in front when I’m up high, those pucks don’t go in. Everyone’s helping out for sure.”

The Blues will be without defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Justin Faulk, each of whom was injured during Game 2.

Teams that take a 3-0 lead in a best-of-7 series are 192-4 (.979) winning the series.

Here are 3 keys for Game 3:

 

1. Blues’ lineup decisions

The Blues’ depth at defenseman is being tested with Bortuzzo (upper body) and Faulk (upper body) out and Jake Walman in NHL COVID-19 protocol.

Bortuzzo was injured after being hit by center Tyson Jost near the Avalanche bench 9:05 into the second period of Game 2, and Faulk left the game after receiving an illegal hit to the head from Nazem Kadri at 6:30 of the third. Kadri was given a match penalty and is scheduled for an in-person hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Friday.

Defenseman Vince Dunn will be a game-time decision. He was out for the final 11 regular-season games and the first two playoff games with an upper-body injury.

“He’s a very good player … been around for a long time,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. “Just having his presence in the locker room and on the ice makes a difference. Whatever lineup we’re able to go with, we’re going to focus on that and that’s all we can do. We have to focus on winning a hockey game tonight.”

Other options at defenseman include Mitch Reinke, who played his only NHL game in 2017-18; Steven Santini, who played three games this season; and Tyler Tucker, who was recalled from Utica of the American Hockey League on Thursday and would be making his NHL debut if he played.

 

2. Quick starts

The Avalanche have been able to quickly generate sustained pressure and momentum in the first period and have reaped the benefits in winning the first two games of the series.

In Game 1 on Monday, the Avalanche outshot the Blues 18-5 on the way to a 1-0 lead in the first. In Game 2 on Wednesday, Joonas Donskoi scored 35 seconds into the game to give Colorado a 1-0 lead. MacKinnon scored with 1:55 remaining in the period and the Avalanche led 2-0 with a 19-6 shot advantage in the first.

The challenge for the Blues as they return home will be establishing some of their own early momentum.

“I think the start is always important, even more so come playoff time,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “Catch-up hockey is losing hockey and getting off to that early start is key for any team. We’ve been good in the starts. [The MacKinnon line] has been leading the charge and the rest of the team is following, and it’s put us in a position to keep playing our game throughout the 60 minutes in closing these games out.”

 

3. No place like home

The Blues are hoping having the last line change will go a long way to getting back into the series.

“When we do things the right way and dictate, get on these guys, you can see we generate and we make it difficult on them,” Blues center Ryan O’Reilly said. “It’s definitely something that we have to build off of and we’re going home, we’re going to get back in the series.”

The Blues went 2-2-0 against the Avalanche at Enterprise Center during the regular season, outscoring them 14-12. They were 33.3 percent on the power play (5-for-15) in the four games; St. Louis is 1-for-4 with the man advantage in the first two games of the series.

 

Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen

Andre Burakovsky — Tyson Jost — Valeri Nichushkin

Brandon SaadAlex Newhook — Joonas Donskoi

Carl SoderbergPierre-Edouard BellemareJ.T. Compher

Devon ToewsCale Makar

Ryan GravesSamuel Girard

Patrik NemethConor Timmins

Philipp Grubauer

Jonas Johansson

Scratched: Bowen Byram, Devan Dubnyk, Dennis Gilbert, Jacob MacDonald, Liam O’Brien, Jayson Megna, Dan Renouf, Kiefer Sherwood

Injured: Matt Calvert (upper body), Logan O’Connor (lower body)

Suspended: Nazem Kadri

 

Blues projected lineup

Ivan Barbashev — Ryan O’Reilly — Jordan Kyrou

Jaden SchwartzBrayden SchennVladimir Tarasenko

Mike HoffmanTyler BozakRobert Thomas

Kyle CliffordZach SanfordSammy Blais

Marco Scandella — Colton Parayko

Torey Krug — Steven Santini

Niko Mikkola — Mitch Reinke

Jordan Binnington 

Ville Husso

Scratched: Klim Kostin, Dakota Joshua, Mackenzie MacEachern, Jacob de la Rose, Austin Poganski, Joel Hofer, Jon Gillies, Tyler Tucker

Injured: Justin Faulk (upper body), Robert Bortuzzo (upper body), Vince Dunn (upper body)

COVID-19 protocol: David Perron, Jake Walman, Nathan Walker

 

Status report

Soderberg, who was scratched in the first two games of the series, will replace Kadri in the lineup. … Bednar said there would be changes to the forward lines but refused to disclose what they would be. … Schwartz and Scandella each took a maintenance day and did not take part in the morning skate but will play.

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