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Avalanche Vs. Kings: Colorado Returns Home For Must-Win Game

The Colorado Avalanche made some waves before the NHL Trading Deadline, acquiring winger Steve Downie from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for defenseman Kyle Quincey. Now they're hoping the physical winger can add some offense as they enter a critical game against the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday nigh at Pepsi Center.

The Los Angeles Kings currently hold the eighth seed in the Western Conference despite their league-worst offense. It's tough to believe, but a club that features Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, and Drew Doughty has managed 128 goals on the season, an average of 2.13 goals scored per game. This underachieving bunch has been one of the major disappointments in the league this season and yet currently sit in playoff position thanks to a stout defense and the stellar goaltending of Jonathan Quick. With a .933 SV% on the season, Quick has established his presence as one of the very elite goalies in the world. His 1.91 GAA may be the biggest reason the Kings even have a chance at the postseason this year.

For Colorado, their playoff fate lies with the offense. A stout defense and solid goaltending have both been surprises this season, but the lack of production from their top forwards has been a troubling trend. Center Ryan O'Reilly (previously known for his defensive play) and rookie Gabriel Landeskog have led the charge, but they have not been supported by stars Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny. Veteran Milan Hejduk is also having a one of the poorest seasons of his career. With Peter Mueller and T.J. Galiardi both suffering injuries, Colorado is hoping the addition of winger Downie can make a difference offensively.

This is as close to a must-win game as you can get in February. With a regulation victory, the Avalanche can pull within two points of the Kings. A loss pushes that deficit to six points.Colorado has won the first three games of this series and are looking for the season sweep in the biggest game between these two franchises this season.

Semyon Varlamov will get the start in net for Colorado. Jean-Sebastien Giguere is healthy enough to serve as backup.

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

For more coverage, visit our Avalanche blog Mile High Hockey and our Kings blog Jewels From The Crown.