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Game 6 Preview: Time to grow and advance

Colorado can make the Western Finals for the first time in 20 years.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues meet for game six of the second round tonight at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, MO. Colorado looked to be heading to the western conference finals in game five but could not hold onto a 3-0 lead at home and eventually lost in OT. The series is now sitting at 3-2 in favor of the Avalanche. If the Avalanche can’t put the Blues away, we will be back in Denver for Game 7 on Sunday.

Colorado Avalanche

It looked as though the Avalanche let up a bit after taking a 3-0 lead on Wednesday, and that can’t happen against any team with a Stanley Cup pedigree like St. Louis. By not sealing the deal in game five, Colorado will have to make their first conference final in twenty years the hard way.

We saw the Nathan MacKinnon we all know and love on Wednesday, but I’m hoping for a strong showing from the whole top line, specifically Mikko Rantanen. Colorado will also need more from their netminder Darcy Kuemper. I know the immediate reaction from my favorite fans in the world will be, “Mikko has eleven points in nine games these playoffs,” and, “Darcy has been enough so far.” The thing about it is, this time of the year, it’s not about being good. It’s about being great. That’s how you become a sports legend in this town. No one can empty net their way into sports folklore. Colorado has to show growth and win an elimination game in the second round. They are 0-5 in second-round elimination games over the last five years and have to take advantage of this opportunity tonight.

Projected Lineup:

Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Artturi Lehkonen
Valeri Nichushkin — Nazem Kadri — Mikko Rantanen
Alex Newhook — JT Compher — Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Andrew Cogliano — Darren Helm — Logan O’Connor

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

Note: Bednar and Colorado will likely return to a more common lineup with Mikko on the wing with MacKinnon and Landeskog during Game 6.

St. Louis Blues

After their overtime victory in Game 5, the Blues have to be riding high. Momentum is significant this time of year, and despite being down in the series, the Blues have it all going into tonight’s contest. Not even a Nathan MacKinnon hat-trick could put the Blues away, which should only galvanize their group.

Keep an eye on Blues forwards Robert Thomas and Ryan O’Reilly this evening. Blues fans have been waiting for Thomas to return to his regular-season form with bated breath, while O’Reilly has been light out this entire series.

Projected Lineup:

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

Nick Leddy — Colron Parayko
Marco Scandella — Justin Faulk
Niko Mikkola — Robert Bortuzzo

Goaltenders

It will be Darcy Kuemper between the pipes for Colorado once more. Kuemper undoubtedly wasn’t pleased with his performance late in game five. He let in the tying goal after saving an off-angle shot from Tarasenko that resulted in an odd rebound chance. Kuemper can’t lose sight of the puck in there and has to be better in the critical moments for Colorado to advance.

For the Blues, it will be Ville Husso’s net once more. Husso has been just enough to keep his team in this series. He will be tested early and often this evening and will have to have his best stuff to force a game seven.