SPORTS

NHL Playoffs: 4 things to watch on Thursday

04/23/2015 01:15 EDT | Updated 07/20/2015 12:59 EDT
Two teams are on the verge of playoff elimination Thursday, as the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators can be knocked out by the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks, respectively. Here's what you need to know.

Canucks face goaltending dilemma

The Vancouver Canucks have a goaltending dilemma to solve quickly, as they face elimination on home ice Thursday in Game 5 against the Calgary Flames (CBC TV, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m.ET)

Coach Willie Desjardins and the Canucks' braintrust must decide whether to start Eddie Lack, who took over the main goaltending role when Ryan Miller suffered a knee injury in February, or Miller, in their must-win game Thursday night.

Lack was superb down the stretch but gave up seven goals on 35 shots in the two games in Calgary as the Canucks turned a 1-1 series into a 3-1 deficit. They've lost 13 of their last 15 playoff games.

Miller came on in relief of Lack in Tuesday's 3-1 loss and stopped all 15 shots directed his way. But he hasn't played much since hurting his knee.

Vancouver's Alex Burrows was ruled out for the rest of the series with a broken rib.

Making things more difficult is the fact that the Flames' big line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler is starting to heat up, adding to the Flames balanced attack. 

The Canucks have come back from a 3-1 series deficit in the past — most recently, they beat St. Louis in the 2003 playoffs after trailing by that margin.

Red Wings try to preserve home ice edge

Any thought that the Red Wings had about changing goalies after a shaky performance by Petr Mrazek in a 5-1 loss in Game 2 has been quashed by Mrazek's shutout in Tuesday's Game 3 victory. The Wings try to keep the momentum building, in their own building, as they host the Islanders tonight (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).

Mrazek let in four goals in the Wings' lone setback in the series and was replaced by Jimmy Howard, but he did everything right in the 3-0 shutout win that put Detroit on top for the second time in the series. 

Detroit has been bolstered by early goals from Pavel Datsyuk in two of the games thus far.

They've also held the Lightning's Steven Stamkos in check, limiting him to just two assists.

The Lightning hope to get defenceman Jason Garrison back for Thursday's contest.

Capitals muffling Isles' big guns

Ovechkin vs. Tavares? Who's better right now? These two snipers for the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders, respectively, aren't the only ones making a splash in the series. 

Capitals' coach Barry Trotz tipped his hat to his Washington penalty-killers who were key in his team's 2-1 overtime win on Tuesday. The Islanders power play was shut out and Tavares was held without a point for the first time since March 28.

Nicklas Backstrom stepped up from Alex Ovechkin's shadow to provide the winner for the Caps.

The Capitals likely won't have Lubomir Visnovsky in the line-up for Game 5 after he left Tuesday's game after a tough hit by the Islanders' Tom Wilson.

Blackhawks riding Darling goalie

The second team on the brink Thursday evening is the Nashville Predators, who need to win three straight against the Chicago Blackhawks, beginning with Game 5 at Bridgestone Arena. 

The Predators were in contention to be the top team in the Western Conference in the regular season but slipped somewhat down the stretch to finish behind St. Louis and Anaheim. In the post-season, they're a couple of players short and goaltender Pekka Rinne looks like he's starting to fade.

A 3-2 triple overtime loss to the Blackhawks on a Brent Seabrook goal certainly didn't help.

Meanwhile the goaltending picture for the Blackhawks has been just Darling. Scott Darling, that is. He's 3-0 in the series against the Predators, 

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