Avalanche Vs. Blue Jackets: Fading Teams Face Each Other

The Columbus Blue Jackets arrive at Pepsi Center with their once faint playoff hopes essentially dashed. After making the franchise's first playoff appearance in 2008-2009,  Columbus thought they had the beginnings of a series of postseason appearances in front of them. Armed with top forward Rick Nash and blooming center Derick Brassard -- and with the emergence of young goalie stud Steve Mason -- hockey fans in Ohio finally had something to cheer for.

Unfortunately, that early promise has not come to fruition since. A strong early start led many to believe that Columbus had bounced back, but the tough Central Division has relegated the Blue Jackets to another year of mediocrity; not good enough to see the playoffs, but not quite bad enough to get an impact player in the draft. A rough March has doomed them, as a 2-5-4 record is simply not good enough for a team with playoff aspirations.

The Colorado Avalanche, however, have been in complete freefall since January. Before last Saturday's shootout victory over the cellar-dwelling Edmonton Oilers, the Avalanche had beaten only the St. Louis Blues since January 24. The break in between games has allowed veteran winger Milan Hejduk to finally get healthy again as he attempts to set a franchise record for consecutive 20-goal seasons. He currently sits at 19 goals for the season.

Colorado currently sits with the second worst record in the NHL, one point behind the Ottawa Senators. If the season ended today, they would have a decent chance at the top overall pick in this year's draft, and would pick no lower than third. Though losses are frustrating for fans, it's the best hope for future success at this point.

Brian Elliott will start in net for Colorado. Steve Mason will be the starting goalie for Columbus.

Puck drops at 7:00 p.m. MDT.

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