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3 Keys: Avalanche at Oilers, Game 3 of Western Conference Final

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Avalanche (1C) at Oilers (2P)

8 p.m. ET; TNT, CBC, TVAS, SN

Colorado leads best-of-7 series 2-0

The Edmonton Oilers hope to use home-ice advantage to get back into their Western Conference Final series against the Colorado Avalanche when they play Game 3 at Rogers Place on Saturday.

The Avalanche lead the best-of-7 series 2-0 after two wins in Denver. They are 5-0 on the road in the playoffs.

“They’re a good team,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said. “We’ve said that lots. And we’re a good team, but we haven’t played our best yet. Three games in, I would expect to see it tonight. 

“But, like I said, they’re a good team, they’re doing good things, they’re playing well – we have to up our level.” 

Colorado’s 4-0 victory in Game 2 put an end to McDavid’s nine-game point streak (23 points; seven goals, 16 assists) in the playoffs. He was blanked once previously in the playoffs this season, a 4-0 loss in Game 4 of the Western Conference First Round against the Los Angeles Kings, and responded with a three-point game (one goal, two assists) in a 5-4 overtime win in Game 5.

McDavid leads the playoffs with 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists) in 14 games and teammate Leon Draisaitl is second with 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) in 14 games.

Draisaitl also had a nine-game point streak (24 points; four goals, 20 assists) halted in Game 2. He had one other pointless game in the playoffs, Game 4 against the Kings, and followed it up with three points (two goals, one assist) in Game 5.

[RELATED: Complete Avalanche vs. Oilers series coverage]

The Avalanche say they’ll be ready for a push from the Oilers in Game 3.

“I expect us to see their best game tonight,” coach Jared Bednar said. “It’s a huge game in the series. They’re back home. We did a nice job in our building and our goal is to go and repeat or better the performance that we had from the other night. The intensity will get cranked up here no question as the series moves on. And we have to be prepared for that.”

Teams that take a 3-0 lead hold an all-time series record of 198-4 (98.0 percent) winning a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Here are 3 keys to Game 3:

1. Avalanche want to keep up their defendingPavel Francouz made 24 saves for the shutout in Game 2 and with his Avalanche teammates determined to check and pressure the Oilers, only faced 11 shots over the final two periods.

“We’ve played some good games, but that’s one of our best checking games, for sure,” Bednar said of Game 2. “From start to finish, I thought guys were really committed and we’ve been committed in most of our games, but that one … on top of that is we didn’t make any major mistakes.”

2. Oilers need a sparkThe Oilers tried using McDavid and Draisaitl on separate lines for Game 2 and Edmonton’s 24 shots on goal weren’t nearly enough.

They showed a similar strategy in the morning skate Saturday, but coach Jay Woodcroft was non-committal about what may happen for Game 3.

“Well, we don’t want to be prisoner or beholden to something that was decided beforehand,” Woodcroft said. “We want to use our eyes and make decisions based on the real time information that our players are giving us. We’ve shown a level of flexibility in games, we’ve shown a level of flexibility between games, and a level of flexibility with different looks that we can bring. The best news out of all of that is we found ways to win with all those different types of combinations and alignments.”

The issue may be more about trying to get McDavid away from Colorado’s top defense pairing of Cale Makar and Devon Toews, given that Edmonton has the last change as the home team.

3. Maintaining formula for road successThe Avalanche have not lost on the road in the playoffs and have outscored their opponents 26-13.

“I think we know that we have to check on the road first and foremost,” said Avalanche forward J.T. Compher, who had two goals in an 8-6 victory in Game 1. “We talked about it before; they can have the matchup advantage (at home) but when every line’s checking and getting back to the D-zone as five and breaking the puck out better, we’re still going to get to our game.”

Avalanche projected lineupGabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Valeri Nichushkin

Artturi Lehkonen — Nazem Kadri — Mikko Rantanen

Alex Newhook — J.T. Compher — Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Andrew Cogliano — Darren Helm — Logan O’Connor

Devon Toews — Cale Makar

Jack Johnson — Josh Manson

Bowen Byram — Erik Johnson

Pavel Francouz

Justus Annunen

Scratched: Nico Sturm, Ryan Murray, Kurtis MacDermid, Andre Burakovsky

Injured: Samuel Girard (sternum), Darcy Kuemper (upper body)

Oilers projected lineupEvander Kane — Connor McDavid — Zack Kassian

Zach Hyman — Leon Draisaitl — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Warren Foegele — Ryan McLeod — Jesse Puljujarvi

Derek Ryan — Devin Shore — Josh Archibald

Darnell Nurse — Cody Ceci

Duncan Keith — Evan Bouchard

Brett Kulak — Tyson Barrie

Mike Smith

Mikko Koskinen

Scratched: Derick Brassard, Kris Russell, Devin Shore, Olivier Rodrigue

Injured: Kailer Yamamoto (upper body)

Status reportYamamoto is expected to be out after he was injured in Game 2 following a hit from Landeskog in the first period. … Kuemper is expected to miss his second game since he was injured in the second period in Game 1. He took a brief skate Saturday but did not take any shots. … The Avalanche are not expected to make any lineup changes from Game 2. … Nurse and Draisaitl did not participate in the morning skate but will play. … The Oilers could dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Russell would likely play as the extra defenseman.

Source : NHL News

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