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Posted On Saturday, 03.29.2014 / 12:00 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Avalanche aim to clinch first playoff spot since 2010

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche can clinch their first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance since 2009-10 with at least a point Saturday against the San Jose Sharks at Pepsi Center.

The Avalanche (46-21-6) are third in the Central Division, one point behind the second-place Chicago Blackhawks (42-18-5). Colorado has two games in hand on Chicago and is hoping to gain home ice advantage in a first-round series that would likely pit them against the defending-champion Blackhawks.

Colorado could also clinch a postseason berth if the Dallas Stars lose to the St. Louis Blues or the Phoenix Coyotes lose to the Minnesota Wild.

Center John Mitchell will return to the Avalanche lineup after missing four games with a back injury he sustained after crashing into the boards in a March 18 game against the Montreal Canadiens.

"A significant amount of pain is gone," Mitchell said. "My whole back was just bruised right down the middle. It was tough just getting in and out of bed, in and out of a car. Any little pressure on my spine, on my back, was pretty sore. It's good that I can roll in and out of bed, get in and out of my car and not have any pain."

Posted On Thursday, 03.27.2014 / 3:46 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Avalanche close to securing playoff berth

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche could clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009-10 with a win Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks at Pepsi Center and if the Phoenix Coyotes lose to the New Jersey Devils.

Colorado enters play Thursday in third place in the Central Division with 10 games to play. The Avalanche are three points (99-96) behind the second-place Chicago Blackhawks and have a game in hand.

"It would be a big accomplishment," Avalanche center Matt Duchene said of securing a playoff position. "That was our goal early in the season, to make the playoffs and to challenge for the Stanley Cup. That's step one and it would be great to do it [Thursday]."

Posted On Friday, 03.21.2014 / 4:44 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Avalanche aim to end Bruins' win streak

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche will attempt to end the Boston Bruins' winning streak at 10 games Friday at Pepsi Center.

The Bruins are perfect since a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on March 1 and can clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff berth with a win against the Avalanche. They also can clinch by picking up one point against the Avalanche if the New York Rangers lose in regulation Friday to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Boston has a comfortable lead in the Atlantic Division, tops the Eastern Conference with 99 points and is two points behind the St. Louis Blues for first in the NHL.

Colorado is third in the Central Division with 94 points, one behind the second-place Chicago Blackhawks, who play the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.

Posted On Friday, 03.14.2014 / 4:14 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Selanne shifting to left side to play on Ducks' top line

DENVER -- Teemu Selanne will be playing a new position on a new line when the Anaheim Ducks play the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Friday and try to end a four-game losing streak.

It's been a struggle at times for Selanne, 43, who is in his 21st and what he has said will be his final NHL season. A right wing throughout his career, Selanne will be at left wing on the Ducks' first line with center Ryan Getzlaf and right wing Corey Perry.

"It's OK," Selanne said of the position change. "When you've played your whole career on the right side, I'll just have to stay focused when we're coming out of our end and come back on the left side. It shouldn't be a problem."

Posted On Wednesday, 03.12.2014 / 3:49 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blackhawks' Raanta gets 'big stage' against Avalanche

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy was skeptical that rookie goalie Antti Raanta, rather than Corey Crawford, would start Wednesday for the Chicago Blackhawks at Pepsi Center.

"We'll see at game time," Roy said after the morning skate.

Raanta will make his first start since Jan. 28 with second place in the Central Division on the line. Chicago (38-13-14) has a one-point lead (90-89) on third-place Colorado (42-18-5) and each team has 17 games remaining.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville decided on Raanta because Crawford has struggled against the Avalanche, who went 3-1-0 in the first four games between the teams this season. But Quenneville said Crawford would play if the teams meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I think we've played some big games against them this year. We don't like our record and we're making a change," Quenneville said. "[Raanta] has played well for us all year. He hasn't played in a bit. We want to get him in here and we're giving him a big stage here as well. We're confident he can get the job done. He's had some big stretches. He was the guy for us and really put us in a good spot when [Crawford] was hurt. It'll definitely be a good measuring stick for him."

Posted On Monday, 03.10.2014 / 4:38 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Avalanche minus Stastny against Jets

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny has a back injury and won't play Monday against the Winnipeg Jets at Pepsi Center.

Stastny, who has 20 goals and 27 assists in 58 games, was injured on his first shift in the opening minute Saturday in the Avalanche's 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues.

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said he had "no idea" when Stastny would be available, but is hopeful he'll be able to play Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks. Stastny missed two games earlier this season because of back spasms.

Rookie Nathan MacKinnon moved from right wing to center against the Blues after Stastny was injured and he'll be there again Monday, on a line with left wing Gabriel Landeskog and right wing Jamie McGinn, who has moved from the third line.

Posted On Saturday, 03.08.2014 / 11:18 AM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Avalanche look to make up ground against St. Louis

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche believe they are better prepared to handle the St. Louis Blues on Saturday at Pepsi Center than they were in two earlier meetings, both losses in November.

"In my opinion, we're a different team than the last two times we played them," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "We're playing better defensively and we made some adjustments in our system. I think it's good timing for us to see where we are against these guys. They made a couple trades, they have a new goalie [in Ryan Miller]. I think it's going to be interesting to see what we can do better. We'll see where we are."

Colorado (41-17-5) sits third in the jam-packed Central Division, three points behind first-place St. Louis (42-14-6) and one point behind the second-place Chicago Blackhawks (37-13-14).

"This is a big one," Avalanche center Matt Duchene said. "We've had this one marked on our calendar for a while."

Posted On Sunday, 03.02.2014 / 3:08 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Avalanche's Johnson back from suspension

DENVER -- Defenseman Erik Johnson returns to the Colorado Avalanche lineup Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Pepsi Center after completing a two-game suspension for slashing New York Islanders forward Frans Nielsen in a Feb. 8 game.

"I'm excited," Johnson said. "It was tough going into the Olympic break knowing the first two games coming back I'd have to sit out. It wasn't the best news to hear. Any time you're not playing, it's hard. We're hockey players and we belong on the ice, so it was tough news to get. I had never been suspended before. I wanted to be out there playing, especially because it was a longer break with the Olympics."

The Avalanche went 1-1-0 without Johnson, who has seven goals, 17 assists and a plus-5 rating in 58 games while averaging a team-high 22:48 in ice time.

Posted On Friday, 02.28.2014 / 3:39 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Roy wants to see Avalanche's Varlamov rebound

DENVER -- Semyon Varlamov will start in goal Friday when the Colorado Avalanche face the Phoenix Coyotes at Pepsi Center, his first appearance since playing three games for Russia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Varlamov last played in an NHL game Feb. 6 when he stopped 32 shots in a 3-1 road loss to thePhiladelphia Flyers. He lost his last two decisions before the Olympic break but has set a career high for wins in a season with 28 and has been the Avalanche's most valuable player.

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said he expects Varlamov to return to form after failing to win an Olympic medal for the host country.

"[Varlamov] is a great person and he wants to do well," Roy said. "I have no doubt in my mind that he's not happy about the way that he played and he's going to look at himself in the mirror. I think that's what makes a career. It's not always perfect. That's the way it was for me, anyway, and I think it's going to make him a better hockey player. It's going to help him approach how he's going to play until the end of the year and the playoffs. It's always how you bounce back."

Posted On Wednesday, 02.26.2014 / 4:02 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Kings' Jones, Avalanche's Giguere likely to match up

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche are looking to pick up where they left off before the Olympic break when they play the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday at Pepsi Center, while the Kings are hoping to get back on the winning track.

The Avalanche (37-16-5) are 11-4-1 in their past 16 games and sit third in the Central Division, five points behind the first-place St. Louis Blues and second-place Chicago Blackhawks.

The Kings (31-22-6) are on a 2-8-1 slide and third in the Pacific Division, four points ahead of the ninth-place Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference.

Each team is expected to start its backup goalie, Jean-Sebastien Giguere for the Avalanche and Martin Jones for the Kings. Colorado's Semyon Varlamov played for Russia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick was in net for the United States.

"I feel everyone is feeling really good and recharged and ready to go," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "I was pleased with the intensity that we had in our practices. It's going to be a challenge, but I think we have quality people here and I'm very confident that we'll do well."

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I spent a long summer thinking about that playoff series and what could have been. [The Blackhawks] ended up being the Stanley Cup champions, so we know we lost to a very good team. It's tough to know how close we were, and it motivates us for this year.

— Nashville captain Shea Weber in an interview with the Predators website
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