The Colorado Avalanche did not play on Sunday, yet they slipped into a three way tie for 8th place in the Western Conference.
This is the harsh reality of this year's playoff race; Phoenix, Los Angeles, Colorado, Calgary, and San Jose are all within three points of each other -- and only two of these teams will make the playoffs. In a season where tiebreakers could determine the postseason field, the Avalanche can no longer allow points to fall by the wayside. With 12 remaining regular season games, Colorado likely needs to earn at least 16 points to comfortably remain in the playoff chase. Saturday's shootout victory over the Edmonton Oilers was big, but Monday night's home game against the Anaheim Ducks looms large.
The Ducks have begun to fall away from the rest of the pack after their resilient second half surge. They have only won two of their past seven games and, aside from Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan, the team appears to be running out of steam. Goalie Jonas Hiller has started a career high 63 games this season for Anaheim -- and has performed well -- but the lack of a suitable backup has forced a heavy workload on the young goalie just a year after he suffered from chronic vertigo. Still, even with his career low save percentage (.910 SV%), Hiller has given the Ducks an entire season of league average goaltending. He has been a strength of the team.
For the Avalanche, the deadline trades of Jamie McGinn and Steve Downie have rejuvenated the offense. McGinn has been a force on Paul Stastny's line with four goals in the past four games. Downie, Peter Mueller, and Gabriel Landeskog are all scoring at around a point per game pace over the past two weeks as well.
In net, Semyon Varlamov continues his torrid second half pace. The goalie has a blistering .956 SV% in his last eight starts and has carried the workload these past two weeks. If Colorado is to make the playoffs this season, it will be Varlamov that carries them there in this final stretch.
Puck drops at 7:00 p.m. MDT