The Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers will meet tonight at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alta., for Game 4 of the Western Conference Final. Colorado has three games to none lead in the series and can secure a cup final appearance with a victory this evening.
The Avalanche had another great showing over the weekend and are on the brink of heading to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in twenty-one years. They will have to make their push without Nazem Kadri, who sustained an injury early in Game 3 after Evander Kane cross-checked him into the corner on a dangerous and avoidable play. The NHL Department of Player Safety subsequently has handed Kane a one-game suspension.
Mikko Rantanen struggled to find the back of the net in the first two rounds of these playoffs, but that seems to have changed. Mikko dominated the last ten minutes of Game 3 and has a goal in each series game. With Kadri being out, the Avalanche will need him to improve on those five points in three contests tonight.
Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Artturi Lehkonen — Valeri Nichushkin — Andre Burakovksy
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: Andre Burakovsky made the trip to Edmonton but did not appear in game three. He also did not skate in yesterday’s optional skate. He may be in the lineup this evening to supplement the loss of Kadri.
The talk about Conor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl has begun to change its tune as they have both struggled since the Game 1 score-a-thon. The pair have combined for one point in the last two games, contrasting starkly to the two points per game they had averaged before this round. Edmonton’s dangerous tandem will have to turn things around if they don’t want to avoid the sweep.
The Oilers are treading dangerous waters down three games to a talented Colorado Avalanche team. They will be without one of their best skaters in Evander Kane as they attempt to scratch and claw their way back into this series. They will also likely be without Kailer Yamomoto, who suffered an injury after taking a heavy hit from Gabriel Landeskog.
Oilers’ head coach Jay Woodcroft spent a lot of time talking about an imbalance in powerplay chances stating that Colorado has been the benefactor. Considering that many of Edmonton’s penalty minutes have come late in games due to frustration, it isn’t all that imbalanced.
Zach Hyman — Connor McDavid — Leon Draisaitl
Warren Foegele — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — Jesse Puljujarvi
Josh Archibald — Ryan McLoed — Zack Kassian
Dylan Halloway — Derek Ryan — Brad Malone
Darnell Nurse — Cody Ceci
Duncan Keith — Evan Bouchard
Brett Kulak — Tyson Barrie
I’d expect Jared Bednar and the Colorado Avalanche to ride the hot hand and start Pavel Francouz. Darcy Kuemper did return to the ice and looked to be feeling much better, but the man dubbed “Frankie” has been lights out for his squad, winning all five of his playoff starts. If he can push his winning streak to six games, the Avalanche will be back in a Stanley Cup Final.
The Oilers will likely go with Mike Smith despite his lack of success in this series. Statistically, Smith has been just fine, but he seems to be letting in soft goals at the worst time. Compher’s game-winning goal came from a hard-working play but is likely a shot that Mike Smith should have had. If the Oilers go with Koskinen instead, they’d be playing without the playoff prowess and experience that Mike Smith brings to the table.