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PREVIEW: Colorado Avalanche look to close out series vs. St. Louis Blues

The Colorado Avalanche will try to complete a first-round playoff series sweep when they visit the St. Louis Blues Sunday.

“Whenever you have a chance to eliminate a team, it’s always the hardest game to win,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “Our guys understand it. You try to get out of the series when you have opportunities to do that.”

The Avalanche have won the first three games of the best-of-seven series by the combined score of 15-5.

“They’re a really good team, and they know how to find ways to win,” Blues forward Tyler Bozak said. “They’re opportunistic, they find ways to score. They scored on a lot of their chances, made great plays, and that’s what the really good teams do.”

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Meanwhile the Blues will just try to stay alive on their home ice.

“It’s do-or-die time,” Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “We have to come together and find a way here. It’s not gonna be easy, but our focus is on the next game.”

The Avalanche will play without center Nazem Kadri, who will serve the second game of his eight-game NHL suspension for his blind-side head shot against Blues defenseman Justin Faulk in Game 2.

“We have to deal with it, and we need other guys to step up and I’m not going to worry about it past today,” Bednar said. “We have to live with the decisions they make and they make them for a reason. We don’t always have to agree when it’s their decision and you’ve got to live with it.”

Bednar moved J.T. Compher up to the second line to replace Kadri and added forward Carl Soderberg to the lineup. Compher iced Game 3 with an empty-net goal, and the Avalanche also got supporting cast goals from Alex Newhook, Brandon Saad, Tyson Jost and defenseman Ryan Graves in the 5-1 win on Friday.

“That’s a big part of playoffs, having the deep team that we have, any given night we can have goal-scorers, so it can’t be the top line every night, and I think we did a good job of chipping in tonight,” Saad said.

Meanwhile the Blues may be forced to deploy a makeshift defensive corps again, since Faulk, Robert Bortuzzo (head), Vince Dunn (upper body) and Jake Walman (COVID-19 protocol) are questionable after missing Game 3.

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Defensemen Steven Santini and Mitch Reinke, playing in their first playoff games, had to fill in.

“I thought they did a great job,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “I thought our D corps did a great job tonight, being shorthanded like that. I think they did a really nice job, moving the puck, defending, a lot of good stuff by everybody.”

The Blues were more competitive on Friday night than they were in the first two games. They outshot the Avalanche 32-26 and kept Colorado star Nathan MacKinnon off the score sheet after he scored five goals and added two assists in the first two games of the series.

“I don’t think the score represents the way the game went,” Bozak said. “I thought we created more than we have in the first two games. I thought we sustained a lot more time in the offensive zone and I thought we limited them a little bit, too.”

–Field Level Media