The Colorado Avalanche entered this week with a very difficult mission: play against three Eastern Conference playoff teams in three cities over the span of four nights -- and stay in the heart of the Western Conference playoff race.
So far, so good.
The Avalanche won a stunner in Buffalo earlier this week, then rode Jean-Sebastien Giguere's shutout for another point on the back to back against New Jersey. Entering Saturday's road trip finale against the New York Rangers, Colorado has earned three of a possible four points in the standings are currently sit in possession of that eighth and final seed with 81 points.
The bad news, of course, is that they have yet to gain any separation in the playoff chase despite their excellent play through the month of March. Phoenix also has 81 points, and three other teams sit just behind Colorado with 80 points. If Colorado wants to make the playoffs, they'll have to do so by continuing their hot streak.
Semyon Varlamov will return to the net on the best stretch of his young career. The young netminder has carried the Avalanche throughout this second half surge with a 1.87 GAA and .937 SV% since January. He has only allowed 26 goals in his past 14 starts and has carried the load for this young Avalanche team.
The Rangers will also see reinforcements in net, as Henrik Lundqvist will start for the Rangers after missing the last two games with a bout of the flu. Lundqvist is enjoying the best statistical season of his career (1.88 GAA, 935 SV%) and is likely a finalist for the Vezina Trophy this season.
Puck drops at 5:00p.m. MDT