The Colorado Avalanche once again get a chance to take a commanding lead in their first round series against the Arizona Coyotes. Colorado has been dominant most of the series, outshooting the Coyotes in the first and third games by 26 and 30 shots on goal respectively. Game 2 was much closer, however, the Avs came out with a win in that. On Saturday, the Avs put up 51 shots on Darcy Kuemper. However, they only managed to score just two times. Beating him more frequently will clearly be a goal of the Avalanche in this game.
The special teams battle will be one to keep an eye on as so far the penalty kill has dominated this series. There haven’t been too many chances on the power play with each team only getting three or four a game, yet just one power play goal for the teams combined is surprising. That goal came all the way back in Game 1 and it was from the stick of Nazem Kadri. Nathan MacKinnon and has started to heat up for the Avalanche and that is also something to keep an eye on. MacKinnon has a goal and an assist in his last two games.
The Coyotes should come out with some life here today as falling behind in a series 3-1 is always a tough thing to comeback from. Kuemper stole them a game on Saturday as he was solid all night. The Coyotes scored two goals and then added two empty netters late as well for the 4-2 win. It will be interesting to see if they come out with some desperation here in Game 4.
The Avs line combos will be something to keep an eye on today. Vladislav Namestnikov is listed as day-to-day so his involvement in the lineup is questionable. He missed Game 3 and Joonas Donskoi, who was scratched Game 2, played instead. Coach Bednar wouldn’t say who was starting to day either. However, Philipp Grubauer seems like a good bet as he already has the two wins under his belt.
Projected lineup from last game
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Joonas Donskoi - Nazem Kadri - Valeri Nichushkin
Tyson Jost - J.T. Compher - Andre Burakovsky
Matt Nieto - P.E. Bellemare - Matt Calvert
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ryan Graves - Cale Makar
Nikita Zadorov - Ian Cole
Namestnikov may be the wild card here. If he is healthy enough to play he will likely draw back into the lineup. Who would come out would be the question. Bednar called out his middle-six forwards the other day, stating they need more out of them. A decision of who is in and out will be made closer to game time.
The Coyotes kept the same lineup in Game 3 that they had in Game 2. They were significantly more outshot in Game 3, despite picking up a much needed victory. A bounce back effort from the roster as a whole is what they will be looking for. There may be some minor changes to the lines, however, it seems unlikely any massive changes will be made. One certain is that Kuemper should get the nod in net again.
Once again, their power play has yet to find the back of the net. With names like Phil Kessel, Taylor Hall, and Clayton Keller, you would think that would be a focus point for Arizona. They are 0/9 so far in this series.
Projected lineup from last game
Taylor Hall - Derek Stepan - Clayton Keller
Conor Garland- Christian Dvorak - Phil Kessel
Lawson Crouse - Carl Soderberg - Christian Fischer
Michael Grabner - Brad Richardson - Vinnie Hinostroza
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Jason Demers
Alex Goligoski - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Jakob Chychrun - Jordan Oesterle
The Coyotes don’t score too often, so they really need their top lines to get going. Hall, Keller, Kessel, Stepan, Ekman-Larsson and crew all need to have big performances. A win would put the Coyotes right back into this series. However, a loss would make it very tough to rebound from.