Thursday, April 29, 2004

Game 4: @ Calgary, 10:00 ET

Tonight is the fourth game in this Western Conference Semifinals series between the Wings and the Flames. The teams have traded wins, with Calgary winning Game 1, 2-1 in overtime, the Wings dominating Game 2 with a 5-2 win, and then Calgary battling back in the Saddledome with a 3-2 Game 3 win. Jarome Iginla and the Flames now lead the best-of-seven series 2-1. This is a must-win game for the Wings, and a pivotal game in this series. A Wings' win or loss is the difference between a series tied 2-2 or trailing 3-1. It's the difference between a best-of-3 showdown or needing 3 straight wins. The Wings hold home ice advantage, so Games 5 and 7 are in the Joe, with Game 6 in the Saddledome. In order to beat the Flames, the Wings can't just rely on their higher skills and expect to coast to victory. They are going to have to play tenaciously and show some grit. It's a Darryl Sutter blue-collar attitude that has given the Flames a 2-1 series lead, and the Wings need to start emulating it. Coach Dave Lewis is hoping the Wings can match Calgary's physical play and give a full-game effort in this crucial Game 4:
"They outworked us the first and second periods. The third period we were pretty good, but you have to play 60-plus minutes in the playoffs.�
Coach Lewis has avoided public scrutiny of individual players, but has alluded that Brendan Shanahan and Brett Hull need to pick up their games:
�They�re opportunistic type of players and want to get to spots that are hard to cover. The puck has to get there, and at times the puck isn�t getting there and other times the puck is there and they�re not getting their shots off. I�m hoping it�s just a matter of time before those shots are going into the net.�
The Wings got the day off on Wednesday, with some players choosing to take the ice for an optional practice. Curtis Joseph turns 37 today. Cujo stood on his head in the Wings' Game 3 loss. The Wings need to back him up on his birthday with some offense. Injury Update: Chris Chelios, who missed Game 3, is "a game-time decision," according to Coach Dave Lewis. Near the end of the second period of Game 2, Chelios took a hard hit into the boards courtesy of Oleg Saprykin. He immediately left the ice and held his right arm in pain. He returned to play in the third, but apparently felt the hit the next morning. Jamie Rivers and Jason Woolley cracked the lineup in Game 3 for their first playoff games this season. Jason Williams was a healthy scratch for Game 3 with a "lower-body" injury, and is unlikely to play tonight. As for the Flames, Rhett Warrener's status is unknown for Game 4. He was a scratch in Game 3, after Yzerman's stick clipped him dangerously near his eyes. Avs Escape Sweep: The Colorado Avalanche avoided elimination Wednesday night with a 1-0 overtime win. Joe Sakic scored the winner 5:15 into overtime, after Mike Rathje mishandled the puck in front of Evgeni Nabokov. It was Sakic's 5th overtime playoff goal, which ties him at second with Glenn Anderson. The goal ended a 178 minutes, 14 seconds scoreless streak against Nabokov. The series is now 3-1 San Jose. Colorado is trying to become the third team in NHL history to rally from a 3-0 deficit and win a series. The 1975 New York Islanders and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs (over the Wings in the Cup Finals) are the only teams to win a series after trailing 3-0. The Avs were without defenseman Rob Blake, who is feared to be out for the series with an "upper-body" injury. David Aebischer notched his first playoff shutout. The Sharks are looking to advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time. The Avs have never been swept since moving to Denver.


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