NHL

Flames-Canucks Preview

The Calgary Flames are well aware that the most difficult win of a playoff series is the final one. Another solid performance from Jonas Hiller, however, could make that goal significantly more attainable.

The Vancouver Canucks might make a change in net as they face elimination.

On the brink of their first postseason series victory in more than a decade, the Flames will leave the comforts of home Thursday night and attempt to eliminate the Canucks, who will turn to Ryan Miller as they try to rebound from two lackluster performances in Calgary.

The Flames, in their first playoff series since 2009, thrived behind their raucous home crowd to win Games 3 and 4 to take a 3-1 series lead.

After making 23 saves in Sunday's 4-2 victory, Hiller stopped 28 shots Tuesday while first-period goals from Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler and Sam Bennett chased Vancouver's Eddie Lack after only seven shots in a 3-1 win.

"We still have to win one more game. Normally the fourth one is the hardest one to win," Hiller told the team's official website. "I think we definitely want to do this as quickly as possible."

As important as Hiller has been, Bennett's surprising performance has lifted Calgary as well. The 18-year-old center, who played only one game during the regular season after being selected fourth overall in last year's draft, assisted on the game-winner late in Game 1 and scored it in Game 3.

The Flames haven't won a playoff series since the 2004 Western Conference finals against San Jose. This is their sixth playoff series since then, having lost five games when they had a chance to advance.

"The last step, I think, is the hardest one," said Hudler, who has appeared in 70 playoff games.

The only game in this series in which Hiller didn't play particularly well was the last one in Vancouver. After making 29 saves in Calgary's series-opening 2-1 victory, Hiller was pulled late in Game 2 after allowing three goals on 29 shots.

However, including his final postseason with Anaheim in 2014, Hiller has a 1.98 goals-against average in his last 10 playoff games. He has a 1.92 GAA in 15 appearances since the beginning of March with a .947 save percentage in his last seven on the road.

"Hiller has been a very strong figure for us," coach Bob Hartley said. "He's so calm, he doesn't get rattled, he stays always in the game, he's ready for every shot, and I think that he's a very big part."

Vancouver announced Thursday that it will start Miller after he stopped all 15 shots he faced in Game 4. Miller ceded the starting job to Lack late in the season after missing 22 games with a sprained knee and struggled in his only game after returning, allowing five goals to Edmonton on April 11.

With Lack surrendering seven goals on 35 shots in Calgary, Miller gets the nod after putting any lingering injury concerns to rest Tuesday.

"I have really no expectation," Miller said. "The way my season kind of ended, we'll see what the coach has in mind. Eddie has been playing really strong ... He's been battling pretty hard through all this, so we'll see how it goes."

What has been certain is that Alexandre Burrows is done for the series. Burrows, who was playing on a line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin, left the morning skate prior to Game 4 and was taken to the hospital. Coach Willie Desjardins said Burrows remains in Calgary, but added the injury isn't serious.

That all adds up to a difficult hill to climb for the Canucks, who have lost seven of their last eight home playoff games. They last overcame a 3-1 series deficit in 2003 against St. Louis.

"We go back home and we're a confident group when we've faced elimination before," defenseman Kevin Bieksa told the Canucks' official website. "The last one's the toughest one to win, so we go back home and we put everything we can into that one, try to get that game and then put the pressure back on them."

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