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NHL Standings And Avalanche Schedule Preview, February 21

The Trade Deadline is nigh! With one week left before the NHL Trade Deadline, the current members of the Colorado Avalanche are playing for their jobs. The trades of Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk opened eyes everywhere, emphasizing that this is indeed a results-based business. With Colorado winless since January 24, the pressure is on the players to perform.

Before we preview the Avalanche's schedule, let's take a look at a few teams that could be buyers this week prior to the deadline next Monday.

Possible Trade Deadline Buyers:

Dallas Stars -- After spending the entire season leading the Pacific Division -- and proving the experts wrong -- the Stars find themselves on the bottom of the heap and in need of a spark. They are 1-7-1 in their past nine games, with the only win coming in a shootout against Chicago. They are still in playoff contention, but could use an offensive boost via trade. Brad Richards can't carry the entire team, even with the fantastic season he's currently enjoying. Dallas has plenty of cap space to absorb a large contract in trade, and the incentive to pull the trigger.

Pittsburgh Penguins -- The Penguins have seen their star talent decimated by injuries. Evengi Malkin and Sidney Crosby have both missed time, and the team has not come close to matching their contributions. The Penguins don't have much long term flexibility, but could trade for the contract of an offensive player with an expiring contract. Tim Connolly, maybe?

Nashville Predators -- The Predators have formed into a legimate contender for the Stanley Cup this season due to Pekka Rinne's emergence as an elite goalie and a stingy defense playing in front of the net, led by Shea Weber. The Predators have plenty of longterm financial flexibility and may see themselves trading for an impact offensive player before the deadline. A bit more offense makes them a dangerous playoff opponent.

Avalanche Schedule Preview

Tuesday, February 22 @ St. Louis Blues -- This game was originally scheduled for February 1, but a snowstorm that crippled the Midwest forced a postponement. Hockey fans everywhere are counting their blessings now. You may not have heard, but there was a big trade over the weekend between these two teams. It'll be Erik Johnson's homecoming in St. Louis less than 72 hours after being traded. It'll be the first game for Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart against the team that drafted them. Though Colorado is looking towards a lottery pick in the NHL Entry Draft, this game should be extremely watchable, no matter the outcome.

Wednesday, February 23 Vs. Edmonton Oilers -- After the emotional rollercoaster of Tuesday, Wednesday's game could feel like a letdown with two teams playing out the end of a disappointing season. Instead, it's the home debut for Erik Johnson and Jay McClement. Hopefully, the Pepsi Center faithful give them a warm welcome to Colorado.

Saturday, February 26 @ Los Angeles Kings -- Colorado hasn't seen the Kings since that 5-0 debacle that began this extended losing streak. Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, and co. are determined to make the playoffs this season. Tough matchup for Colorado.

Sunday, February 27 @ Anaheim Ducks -- Anaheim has remained in the middle of the tight Pacific Division for most of the season, but has been vulnerable of late. Star goalie Jonas Hiller is on the Injured Reserve list, and as a result the Ducks have given up an average of seven goals per game in their last three, including a 9-3 manhandling by Chris Stewart and his St. Louis Blues. Needless to say, all three games were losses for the boys in Anaheim. Defense and goaltending may be a concern at the moment, but the Ducks can score. Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry, and the ageless Teemu Selanne have all scored 11+ points for Anaheim in their past 10 games.