The Colorado Avalanche, fresh off a crucial overtime victory against their division rival Calgary, head to the desert and take on the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
The Coyotes are neck and neck with the Avalanche for a playoff berth, though they still are holding onto Pacific Division title hopes. Currently, Phoenix sits just a point behind the Dallas Stars for the division lead, with Los Angeles and San Jose less than two points behind. With the Pacific Division title (and the home ice advantage that comes with it) likely to go down to the final week of the season, the Coyotes are desperate for two points in the standings. Their 11-0-1 record in February catapulted them into the playoff picture, but they have cooled down significantly with a 3-5-3 record in their past 11 games.
They'll be playing without the services of their captain Shane Doan, who has been suspended for an illegal hit on Dallas forward Jamie Benn. Doan will miss the next three critical games of this playoff race.
Colorado will lean heavily on the shoulders of young goalie Semyon Varlamov, who has taken the starting job with a spectacular second half of the season. His play has been the main catalyst for this recent playoff surge for Colorado (.944 SV% in his past eight starts) and he will be asked to stand tall against the Coyotes. The Avalanche may be without the services of top defenseman Erik Johnson, who missed the last game with a back injury. He travelled with the team, but is questionable to play.
Two big points are on the line. A regulation victory will give one team a significant boost in their postseason chances.
Puck drops at 8:00 p.m. MDT.
For more coverage, visit our Avalanche blog Mile High Hockey and our Coyotes blog Five For Howling.