The Avalanche have the Nashville Predators on the brink of elimination and will look to sweep their way through the first round for the second year in a row on Monday.

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Pavel Francouz gets the nod

Goaltender Pavel Francouz will make his first start of the series in Game 4, head coach Jared Bednar confirmed to reporters in Nashville. Francouz replaced starting goalie Darcy Kuemper late in the first period on Saturday after Kuemper suffered a gruesome eye injury

Kuemper avoided a more severe outcome after the stick of Ryan Johansen went through his goalie cage and nearly poked him directly in the eye. He is not expected to miss much time. Bednar told reporters on Sunday that Kuemper’s eye was doing better and is not dealing with any concussion symptoms either. The team is just waiting for the swelling in his eye to subside.

Francouz stopped 18-of-20 shots in Game 3 after replacing Kuemper to help the Avs gain a stranglehold 3-0 series lead.

Justus Annunen (called up Sunday from the American Hockey League) will backup Francouz.

Landeskog remains in the lineup

Captain Gabriel Landeskog did not participate in Monday’s morning skate but Bednar later confirmed the 29-year-old will play in Game 4.

Landeskog has six points in three games for the Avs after missing the last chunk of the regular season following knee surgery in March. Landeskog led the way in Game 3 with two goals and two assists playing mostly on the second line with Nazem Kadri and Artturi Lehkonen.

Norris-Trophy finalist Cale Makar

For the second year in a row, superstar defenseman Cale Makar is up for the Norris Trophy — given to the best defenseman of the regular season.

Makar, 23, is a finalist for an NHL award for the third consecutive year. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2019-20 and finished second in Norris Trophy voting last season. The other finalists are Roman Josi of the Predators and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman. The winner will be announced before Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Makar has taken his game to the next level in the playoffs, recording seven points in three games — including the overtime game-winning goal in an exciting Game 2 matchup at Ball Arena last Thursday. Makar was the only player in the NHL to reach seven points through three games this year.

Aarif Deen is our Colorado Avalanche beat reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availabilities and other events pertaining to the Avs on the daily beat. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports upon completion of his bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Before Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as the assistant sports information director.

Follow him on Twitter @runwriteAarif

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