Season Series: Second of four meetings. Colorado and Columbus haven't seen one another since the opening week of the season, when the Avalanche claimed a 3-2 shootout win over the Blue Jackets on Oct. 12 at Nationwide Arena. Gabriel Landeskog forced overtime by scoring his first NHL goal with 40 seconds remaining, and Matt Duchene had the decisive tally in the penalty-shot tiebreaker.
Big Story: The Avalanche are starting to get the goaltending they expected out of Semyon Varlamov when they dealt a pair of high draft picks to the Capitals last summer to acquire him. A groin injury that sidelined veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere briefly has led to Varlamov starting the last three games for Colorado, and since finishing out the Feb. 15 game against Vancouver when Giguere went down, he's posted a .925 save percentage. Giguere was back in uniform on Wednesday, but Varlamov still started and turned in a 32-save performance against Los Angeles.
Avalanche: With its sights set on the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot, Colorado picked up a decisive win over the team occupying that position at the time, thanks in large part to Varlamov and forward Paul Stastny. Their fingerprints were all over the 4-1 win over the Kings that drew the Avalanche two points closer (though Calgary had the chance to leap Los Angeles into eighth on Thursday night). Stastny had a pair of goals, including the game-winner, and Varlamov carried a shutout into the third period. Mark Olver and Jay McClement had the other goals.
"Everybody knows it was a big game," coach Joe Sacco said. "One of the things that we talked about was that we start on time, and we did. It was one of our better starts lately. It keeps us right in the thick of things."
Blue Jackets: Two days after he fueled a 6-3 win against San Jose with his second hat trick of the season, Jeff Carter was no longer a Blue Jacket. GM Scott Howson traded the disappointing center to Los Angeles on Thursday in exchange for top-four defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round draft pick.
Howson, who traded away center Antoine Vermette on Wednesday, said there could be more moves made as the NHL's last-place team prepares for next season.
“I think I said it was the beginning of the reshaping of the team, which doesn’t necessarily mean rebuilding," Howson said. "I expect to be very busy here, very active. It’s going to be a very busy few days leading up to 3 p.m. Monday."
Who's Hot: Landeskog has 2 goals and 2 assists in his last three games for the Avalanche. Olver has 2 goals in three games since being called up, matching his output in 18 games last season. … Rick Nash has goals in consecutive games for the Blue Jackets, while Umberger has 2 goals and 2 assists in his last three games.
Injury Report: Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson, who entered Wednesday's game with 3 goals and 1 assist during a four-game points streak, played just 4:26 before departing due to back spasms. He's day-to-day. Forwards Peter Mueller and TJ Galiardi are on injured reserve with upper-body injuries. … Columbus defenseman Aaron Johnson (lower body) missed Tuesday's game, while fellow blueliner James Wisniewski (groin) has missed two straight. Goalie Curtis Sanford (back), defensemen Radek Martinek (concussion) and Marc Methot (jaw) and forwards Kristian Huselius (groin) and Jared Boll (foot) are on injured reserve. Sanford and Boll have been practicing, and it's possible Sanford could be activated for this game.
Stat Pack: Steve Downie had a shot on goal and a minor penalty while skating 21 shifts for 16:20 of ice time in his debut with the Avalanche against the Kings. … Blue Jackets rookie David Savard had the second multi-point game of his career against the Sharks with a goal and an assist.
Puck Drop: This game sets up as a trap for Colorado, which can't afford to let two points slip away against the last-place team in the League.