Here are three significant storylines to monitor ahead of – and during – the decisive contest:
The biggest question heading into this Game 7 is simple: Will Joe Pavelski play?
San Jose has been tight-lipped about Pavelski’s availability. Head coach Peter DeBoer essentially labeled his captain a game-time decision Tuesday, but cautioned “he’d be playing right now if he had a clean bill of health,” according to NHL.com’s Tim Campbell.
San Jose has survived the entire series without the 34-year-old center so far, but his return would take pressure off the team’s depth forwards and return their workloads to more typical levels.
Simply put, Pavelski is the heart and soul of the Sharks. If he doesn’t play, they’ve proven they can compete without him, but if he does, it could make the difference in what’s been an incredibly tight series.
Colorado’s explosive top line and the Sharks’ talented top six have delivered in these playoffs, but both clubs need more out of their respective supporting casts in Game 7.
Compher notched a pair of markers and an assist in Colorado’s Game 6 victory, and while top-liner Gabriel Landeskog won it in overtime, that contest was a shining example of how dangerous the Avalanche can be when their role players make big contributions offensively.
On the Sharks’ side of things, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, and Brent Burns have combined to score over half of their playoff goals this spring (22 of 40), but their third line of Marcus Sorensen, Joe Thornton, and Kevin Labanc had been rolling until being effectively neutralized Monday night.
San Jose needs the third line to get back on track, while Colorado needs production from more than just Compher outside of its dominant first line.
Dormant power plays
Both clubs have struggled mightily with the man advantage in this series.
The Avalanche are a combined 2-for-20 on the power play in six games, while the Sharks are 2-for-17.
That’s a far cry from their first-round output, when Colorado went 5-for-25 and San Jose 8-for-34.
Neither club converted on the power play in Game 6, but whichever team is able to break through and be more effective with the man advantage in Game 7 might just book their ticket to the conference finals.
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