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The Utah Grizzlies can't win their Western Conference semifinal series tonight, but they sure could make life really difficult on the Peoria Rivermen.

With the Grizzlies leading the best-of-seven series 2-1 after a solid 3-1 victory on Wednesday, the two teams will tangle in Game 4 tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Peoria Civic Center.Utah will again count on its IHL-leading defense and goaltender Tommy Salo to mount the charge. Salo is the playoff leader in goals-against average by allowing just 1.85 goals a game so far in the postseason, and Utah's defense has played a physical, yet smart, series against Peoria.

Though the Grizz are still waiting for an offensive explosion, they have shown a fairly balanced attack. Every player except for Salo and Andreas Johansson, who was injured in Game 1 of the first series, has scored at least one point. Two defensemen - Bob Halkidis and Jeff Sharples - proved to be two-way heroes in Wednesday's game.

Veteran Scott Arniel has come up big for the Grizzlies' offense, which has yet to score more than three goals in a playoff game. Arniel, who was traded from Houston for Egor Bashkatov in late March, is on a three-game scoring streak and has five goals and three assists in the postseason. Viktor Gordiouk has notched one goal and two assists over the past three games.

The play of Peoria goaltender Andre Racicot is to explain for part of the Grizz's scoring woes. He's only given up a respectable eight goals in the three games against Utah.

Michel Mongeau has led the Rivermen, who desperately need a win tonight, in the playoffs. He's second in league postseason scoring with 13 points (four goals, nine assists). Former Grizzly Barry Nieckar and Daniel Gauthier are next with nine playoff points apiece.

Game 5 will also be played in Peoria Saturday night at 6:30. If necessary, the series will move back to Utah for the final two games on Monday and Wednesday.

Tonight's matchup will be broadcast live on KAPN-AM 860.



IHL playoffs

Utah leads Peoria 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

Game 1 Peoria 4, Utah 2

Game 2 Utah 3, Peoria 2

Game 3 Utah 3, Peoria 1

Game 4 Today at Peoria

Game 5 Saturday at Peoria

Game 6 * Monday at Utah

Game 7 * Wednesday Utah

* - if necessary