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3 Keys: Stars vs. Avalanche, Game 1 of Western Second Round

3 Keys: Stars vs. Avalanche, Game 1 of Western Second Round

No. 3 Stars vs. No. 2 Avalanche

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

The Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars will meet in a postseason series for the first time in 14 years when they play Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton. 

This will be the fifth time they play each other in the postseason. They split the first four series, the last coming in 2006 when the Avalanche won the Western Conference Quarterfinals in five games. 

The Stars have not reached the Western Conference Final since 2008, and the Avalanche have not gotten past the second round since 2002. 

Anton Khudobin is expected to start in goal for the Stars. It’ll be the fifth consecutive start for Khudobin, who is 4-3-0 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in seven games this postseason. Stars starter Ben Bishop is unfit to play.

The Stars, who trailed 2-1 in the Western Conference First Round against the Calgary Flames, won the final three games of the best-of-7 series, including a 7-3 victory in Game 6 on Thursday in Edmonton, the West hub city. The Avalanche eliminated the Arizona Coyotes with a 7-1 win in Game 5 of their first-round series Wednesday.

Teams that win Game 1 are 485-220 (68.7 percent) winning a best-of-7 NHL playoff series, including a 7-1 record in the first round this season.

Here are 3 keys to Game 1:

 

1. Turning the page

The Avalanche, who defeated the Stars 4-0 in the round-robin portion of the Qualifiers on Aug. 5, say the Stars are improving with each game this postseason.

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“[The Stars] have gotten better as the [Qualifiers] and playoff has gone on,” Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson said Friday. “They battled back against Calgary, got some timely goals, and they’re a veteran team with some really good defensemen who log a lot of minutes and do a lot of heavy lifting for them. They have some guys up front who can put the puck in the net. It’s probably a heavier series, probably will have some more physicality than we had in the last one. So, we’re looking forward to it.”

 

2. Kadri thriving

Nazem Kadri has been the productive forward the Avalanche hoped he would be when they acquired him in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Tyson Barrie and forward Alexander Kerfoot on July 1, 2019. Kadri has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in eight postseason games, second on the Avalanche to forward Nathan MacKinnon, who has 13 points (four goals, nine assists). Kadri leads the Avalanche with seven power-play points, including five man-advantage goals. 

 

3. Pavelski’s back 

Forward Joe Pavelski is second on the Stars with eight points (six goals, two assists) in nine games this postseason after struggling during the regular season with 14 goals and 31 points in 67 games. He has scored 54 goals in 143 career games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the third-most in NHL history among United States-born players behind Joe Mullen (60) and Mike Modano (58).

“This time of the season is special,” Pavelski said Thursday. “You work hard all year to give yourself a chance to be here, and when you get a chance to score a goal in the playoffs it’s always special. You’re always competing, always trying to help your team win, always trying to take a step. When you get to contribute, it’s awesome.”

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Stars projected lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinAlexander Radulov

Mattias Janmark — Joe Pavelski — Denis Gurianov

Roope HintzJason DickinsonCorey Perry

Andrew CoglianoRadek FaksaBlake Comeau

Esa LindellJohn Klingberg

Jamie OleksiakMiro Heiskanen

Andrej SekeraTaylor Fedun

Anton Khudobin

Jake Oettinger

Scratched: Nick Caamano, Ty Dellandrea, Justin Dowling, Joel Kiviranta, Jason Robertson, Gavin Bayreuther, Joel Hanley, Thomas Harley, Landon Bow

Unfit to play: Stephen Johns, Ben Bishop

 

Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen

Andre Burakovsky — Nazem Kadri — Joonas Donskoi

Tyson JostJ.T. CompherValeri Nichushkin

Matt Nieto — Pierre- Edouard Bellemare — Matt Calvert

Ryan GravesCale Makar

Samuel GirardIan Cole

Nikita Zadorov — Erik Johnson

Philipp Grubauer

Pavel Francouz

Scratched: Mark Barberio, Shane Bowers, Bowen Byram, Kevin Connauton, Sheldon Dries, Michael Hutchinson, Anton Lindholm, Logan O’Connor, Conor Timmins, T.J. Tynan

Unfit to play: Vladislav Namestnikov, Colin Wilson

 

Status report

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Nichushkin was held out of practice Friday to rest, but the forward is expected to play in Game 1.