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Avalanche Vs. Kings: Colorado Begins Two Game West Coast Swing Before Break

The Colorado Avalanche overcame a 3-1 deficit in the third period en route to a 4-3 overtime victory over the Florida Panthers earlier this week thanks to Peter Mueller's three point night (including his first two goals of the season).

Why is this important? Take a look at the Western Conference standings.

Western Standings

Chicago Blackhawks 48 29-13-6 64
Vancouver Canucks 47 28-15-4 60
San Jose Sharks 44 26-13-5 57
Detroit Red Wings 47 31-15-1 63
St. Louis Blues 46 28-12-6 62
Nashville Predators 47 27-16-4 58
Los Angeles Kings 48 23-15-10 56
Colorado Avalanche 48 25-21-2 52
Minnesota Wild 47 22-18-7 51
Dallas Stars 46 24-20-2 50
Calgary Flames 48 22-20-6 50
Phoenix Coyotes 48 21-19-8 50
Anaheim Ducks 45 16-22-7 39
Edmonton Oilers 46 17-25-4 38
Columbus Blue Jackets 46 13-28-5 31

The entire conference has begun breaking into tiers. The top seven teams -- including the Avalanche's Saturday night opponent, the Los Angeles Kings -- have begun pulling away from the remainder of the pack and are likely heading towards the playoffs. Colorado currently sits in 8th place within the conference and would make the playoffs if the season ended today.

But sitting immediately behind Colorado are four teams that lurk within two points of overtaking that last playoff spot. At this point of the season, getting points via any method possible to keep a stranglehold on that last seed is important.

With that mindset, the Avalanche head into the weekend on their last swing of the season to Southern California. The Los Angeles Kings have been very good of late, entering this game riding a six game points streak (3-0-3). They have gained points in eight of nine January games, and are only a single point behind San Jose for the Pacific Division lead. Goalie Jonathan Quick has been dominant, sporting a .948 SV% his past nine games and carrying the league's worst offensive club back into playoff position.

Colorado has not played well the past week, but they have endured losses to Jan Hejda and Shane O'Brien; both should be available to play this weekend. Two more games until the All-Star break. If Colorado can get points in both, they can enter the midseason vacation with a sigh of relief.

Puck drops at 8:30 p.m. MDT.

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