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Game 4 Preview: Avs, Blues rivalry on the rise

Colorado can take a 3-1 series lead before heading back to Denver for Game 5.

Colorado Avalanche v St Louis Blues Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues will meet for Game 4 of the second round at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, MO. The Avalanche won the last contest in St. Louis in a 5-2 battle that featured controversy and injury. Both teams lost a key piece due to injury, and the drama has ensued. Can the Avalanche go up three games to one, or will the Blues tie the series heading back to Denver for Game 5?

Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche will be without defenseman Samuel Girard for the rest of the playoffs after sustaining a broken sternum early in Game 3. After a nasty collision with Ivan Barbashev, Girard barreled into the boards and had to be transported to a local hospital for medical attention. He has since checked in and thanked fans for their support.

With Girard out of the lineup, Jared Bednar will have to call on Jack Johnson, Ryan Murray, or Kurtis MacDermid to fill his shoes from here on out. I imagine he will go with Jack Johnson, who played very well for Colorado throughout the regular season. Jack also offers another veteran presence and playoff experience. If it is Johnson, look for Bowen Byram to take on the role of Sam Girard in the second pairing with Josh Manson. That would mean the reformation of the Johnson & Johnson third pairing we’ve seen in the past.

Nazem Kadri and Calle Rosen collided in pursuit of a loose puck, fell into Jordan Binnington, and injured him in Game 3. Binnington will miss the remainder of the series, but his status could have a lasting impact on the pulse of game four and beyond. Blues head coach Craig Berube fanned the flames of an already firey situation by stating, “Just look at his reputation” regarding Nazem Kadri. If the Blues are out for blood, the target will be Kadri, who will have to have his head on a swivel tonight.

Projected Lineup:

Valeri Nichushkin - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog - Nazem Kadri - Arturri Lehknonen
Andre Burakovsky - JT Compher - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Andrew Cogliano - Darren Helm - Logan O’Connor

Devon Toews - Cale Makar
Bowen Byram - Josh Manson
Jack Johnson - Erik Johnson

Note: The Avalanche could also slot Jack Johnson in on the second pairing with Manson in order to maintain the rhythm between Erik Johnson and Bowen Byram.

St. Louis Blues

Blues fans and teammates are understandably emotional after losing their Stanley Cup-winning goalie to injury, but the Blues themselves will have to move on from their thoughts of revenge if they want to win. Binnington has been their best performer this series and in the playoffs, but gooning it up and settling the score won’t offer St. Louis an advantage—quite the opposite. Taking time to line guys up and take runs puts you in a vulnerable position against a team as skilled as the Avalanche.

Tonight’s contest is the most anticipated game of the series due to all the drama. Expect the Enterprise Center to be lit up with boos and profanity every time Nazem Kadri touches the puck. Let’s keep projectiles off the ice and recycle any plastic wear that may hit the deck.

Projected Lineup:

Pavel Buchnevich — Ryan O’Reilly — David Perron
Ivan Barbashev — Brayden Schenn — Vladimir Tarasenko
Brandon Saad — Robert Thomas — Jordan Kyrou
Alexei Toropchenko — Tyler Bozak — Scott Perunovich

Nick Leddy — Colton Parayko
Calle Rosen — Justin Faulk
Niko Mikkola — Robert Bortuzzo

Goaltending

Colorado will give Darcy Kuemper yet another playoff start this evening, as their success seems strongly predicated on how well he performs. Darcy has been solid in net for the Avalanche posting a 1.99 GAA and a .926 SV% while making timely saves in big moments and is undefeated when he allows two or fewer goals this postseason.

Ville Husso will be in net for St. Louis with Jordan Binnington out for the rest of the playoffs. Husso was the Blues’ starting netminder for most of the regular season before struggling against the Wild in round one and being replaced by Binnington. He started the playoffs with a shutout of Minnesota but has since given up four or more in his last three starts. He will need to be strong tonight to give the Blues a chance.

JFresh Player Card: Ville Husso