Apr 21, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Mikael Granlund (64) scores the game-winning during overtime against the Colorado Avalanche in game three of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Avalanche 1-0 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Avalanche Preview: Game Four at Minnesota Wild (Stanley Cup Playoff Round One)

Game Three Leftovers

Game three was a psychical game between the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild, including some goon tactics by the Wild in the second period. There is no doubt that the Wild were the better team in game three, but it will be interesting to see if the Avalanche respond to the Wild taking a run at them in the game. Matt Cooke has been suspended, so he can’t atone for what he did to Tyson Barrie, but another Wild player might have to drop the gloves in place of Cooke.

A Better Start

The Avalanche finished game three with 22 shots. The Wild had that many in the first period. Obviously the Wild were in desperation mode, being down 0-2 in the series, but that doesn’t excuse how poorly the Avs played in the opening frame. They have get off to a better start and can’t allow the Wild to dominate the entire game. The Avs have to be the desperate team in this one and they have to get back to playing their game and not allowing the Wild to dictate the pace.

Power Outage

The Avalanche power play has been dreadful this series, going 1/12 with the only goal going into an empty net. Had they made Minnesota pay for taking dumb penalties in game three with a power play goal, the game would’ve had a much different tone. With Barrie out, the Avs power play will see a pretty big change as Joey Hishon enters the lineup, moving P.A. Parenteau to the point on the power play. It’s the first unit that needs to get it going though. Nathan MacKinnon-Paul Stastny-Gabriel Landeskog are too good not to cash in on the power play.

Hishon’s Debut

As mentioned, Joey Hishon will make his NHL debut in game four. He was a first round draft pick of the Avalanche in 2010 and has battle injury problems his entire career. He’s a skilled offensive player though and gives the Avs an extra weapon up front. Where will he play though? Obviously he’s going to get power play time, but what about even strength? Nothing would surprise me. He could be used in spot duty on the fourth line, he could center Max Talbot and Cody McLeod on the third line, or he could move Ryan O’Reilly back to left wing and play center between O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn. The 2-6-9 line will remain intact, but Hishon could fall anywhere else.

Scoring Confidence/Darcy Kuemper

The Avalanche haven’t scored a goal against Darcy Kuemper in this series. He made all 14 saves in relief of Ilya Bryzgalov in game two and made 22 saves in a game three shutout. The Avs were only shutout once in the regular season, so they are a team that can score goals, but their scoring confidence has to be questioned right now given how Kuemper has played in this series. The Avs could use an early goal in this one.

Injury Update

Not much new on Cory Sarich (back) or John Mitchell (concussion). The fact that Ryan Wilson and Joey Hishon are playing instead of them pretty much tells you that they aren’t quite ready, because if they were, they’d be in the lineup. The good news is that Matt Duchene (knee) continues to make progress. He’s skating more and more each day. I’ve always said that if this series goes to a game seven, Duchene will be on the ice. Knowing Duchene’s competitiveness, he might be ready for game six.

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