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3 Keys: Golden Knights at Stars, Game 4 of Western Conference Final

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(P1) Golden Knights at (C2) Stars

Western Conference Final, Game 3

Vegas leads best-of-7 series 3-0


DALLAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights will try to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in their six NHL seasons when they play the Dallas Stars in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final at American Airlines Center on Thursday.

The Golden Knights, who lead the best-of-7 series 3-0, reached the Cup Final in 2017-18, their first season in the NHL. They lost in five games to the Washington Capitals.

The Stars will try to stave off elimination without captain Jamie Benn and forward Evgenii Dadonov.

Benn was suspended two games by the NHL Department of Player Safety on Wednesday for cross-checking Vegas forward Mark Stone in the neck area at 1:53 of the first period in Game 3. Benn also was assessed a game misconduct.

Dadonov is out after sustaining a lower-body injury in a collision with teammate Roope Hintz in the first period of Game 3.

The Stars would like the same performance they got in their previous elimination game, a 2-1 win against the Seattle Kraken in Game 7 of the second round.

[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Stars series coverage]

Perhaps the player who has to adjust most is center Wyatt Johnston, who has played on a line with Benn all season, and with Dadonov since the Stars acquired him in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 26. But Johnston wasn't concerned.

"I've had a chance to play with a bunch of different guys throughout the year, and around the guys in practice, you kind of know everyone's tendencies, what they like to do," he said Thursday. "At the end of the day, everyone's a good hockey player, so it's just playing hockey."

Teams that hold a 3-0 lead in a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoffs are 201-4 all-time (.980), including 47-0 (1.000) in the round before the Final.

Here are 3 keys for Game 4:

1. Hill hitting his stride

Vegas goalie Adin Hill has thrived since taking the starting reins against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 4 of the second round.

In his first NHL postseason, Hill is 6-1 with a 1.96 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and one shutout, which he got when he made 34 saves in Vegas' 4-0 win against the Stars in Game 3 on Tuesday. The Golden Knights expect him to keep going.

"He's been doing a real good job of making the timely saves," Stone said. "He made the timely save in Game 2 on the overtime goal (attempt) and that's all you can ask for from your goalie, make the saves you're supposed to and hope he makes a couple of big ones and that's what he's done."

2. Power-play adjustment

Forward Tyler Seguin replaced Benn on the Stars' top power-play unit at the morning skate Thursday. It's familiar territory for Seguin, who replaced Joe Pavelski when he sustained a concussion on a hit from Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba in Game 1 of the first round and missed the next five games. Seguin scored four power-play goals in the series. The Stars expect another smooth transition.

"Of course Jamie's a really good net-front guy. He's been really good the whole season and that's going to be a little different now without him," Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen said Thursday. "'Seggy' was on the top unit at the beginning of the playoffs and he was really good, scored some goals in front of the net. It's a little different, he's a righty, Jamie's a lefty, but all the same things should apply, and it doesn't change too much."

3. Blocking it out

The Golden Knights have blocked 266 shots in the playoffs, second to the Florida Panthers (278), who advanced to the Stanley Cup Final after sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in four games in the Eastern Conference Final. 

"Our [defensemen] play close to the front of the net, so you're close to that area to block shots," Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said Wednesday. "If you track stats like that, I think the teams that play a little more of a layered defense will probably have more blocks than maybe a man-to-man because you're chasing away and there's only one guy in the way to do it. That's certainly the way we play. Our group of defensemen have done it here for years, so I think it comes very natural to them."

Golden Knights projected lineup

Ivan Barbashev -- Jack Eichel -- Jonathan Marchessault

Reilly Smith -- William Karlsson -- Nicolas Roy

Brett Howden -- Chandler Stephenson -- Mark Stone

William Carrier -- Teddy Blueger -- Keegan Kolesar

Alec Martinez -- Alex Pietrangelo

Brayden McNabb -- Shea Theodore

Nicolas Hague -- Zach Whitecloud

Adin Hill

Jonathan Quick

Scratched: Michael Amadio, Paul Cotter, Ben Hutton, Phil Kessel, Kaeden Korczak, Brayden Pachal

Injured: Laurent Brossoit (lower body), Logan Thompson (undisclosed)

Stars projected lineup

Jason Robertson -- Roope Hintz -- Joe Pavelski

Mason Marchment -- Wyatt Johnston -- Tyler Seguin

Rhett Gardner -- Max Domi -- Ty Dellandrea

Luke Glendening -- Radek Faksa -- Joel Kiviranta

Ryan Suter -- Miro Heiskanen

Esa Lindell -- Jani Hakanpaa

Thomas Harley -- Joel Hanley

Jake Oettinger

Scott Wedgewood

Scratched: Mavrik Bourque, Nils Lundkvist, Colin Miller, Fredrik Olofsson, Riley Tufte

Injured: Evgenii Dadonov (lower body)

Suspended: Jamie Benn

Status report

Cassidy said Howden will be a game-time decision after the forward missed practice Wednesday. "I assume he'll be ready to go," Cassidy said. ... Stars coach Peter DeBoer said they have some game-time decisions to make. It is possible Dallas dresses 11 forwards and seven defenseman, with Gardner coming out and Miller going in as the seventh defenseman. ... Gardner and Bourque, a forward, were recalled from Texas of the American Hockey League on Thursday. ... Pavelski took a maintenance day and was not on the ice for moning skate. He's expected to play.

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