1. Survive first 10 minutes
Vegas was run out of the building Sunday night (7-1 loss), the toll of being stretched to seven games by Minnesota evident. The Knights have had two days and one practice to re-group so they should be expected to play with a level of urgency. “You never make excuses, but I think coming from where we were coming from (in the first round) and (the Avalanche’s) situation having been off, that’s a tough game on any schedule,” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said. “I know we’ll be better (Wednesday). I think the day off really helped. We’ll get some things fixed.” The Avalanche, while playing its offensive game, must be on its Ps and Qs to withstand Vegas’ initial burst.
2. Get in Fleury’s way
DeBoer never announces his starting goalie, but did offer it was “obvious” who would in the goal for Game 2 — Vezina Trophy finalist Marc-Andre Fleury. He played all seven games of the Wild series before getting Sunday off. The Avalanche never let Robin Lehner get comfortable, creating an early lead on Mikko Rantanen’s back-handed goal and then completing pin-point passes for goals Lehner had little-to-zero chance of stopping. Net-front traffic to be in position for deflections (like Gabe Landeskog’s goal in Game 4 against St. Louis) or to set up screens will be critical. “He’s excited to play,” DeBoer said of Fluery. “(Minnesota) was a grind of a series, particular the way they played (with) a lot of traffic and a lot of big bodies at the net.”
3. Second-line pulse
The Avalanche’s first line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog have been dominant in five playoff games, combining for a whopping 14 goals and 18 assists. But the second line needs to show more at even strength. Center J.T. Compher, elevated from fourth-line wing when Nazem Kadri was suspended before Game 3 of the St. Louis series, has been fine, but the Avs need production from wingers Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi. At even strength in the playoffs, Burakovsky has two assists and Donskoi one goal and assist apiece. And they’re getting plenty of ice time — at least 10:08 each in the Blues series.
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