"It's probably going to be a unique environment tonight, just being New Year's [Eve] and based on the success they have had so far this year," Richards said. "You can see it on TV. There's more people [attending games] There is going to be more energy."
The Avalanche are playing at home on New Year's Eve for the third time since the franchise has been in Denver and the first time at Pepsi Center. The previous two games were played at McNichols Sports Arena in 1998 (a 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers) and 1997 (a 3-1 win against the New York Islanders).
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy is just interested in putting an end to the team's four-game losing streak (0-1-3) that includes two shootout losses and one in overtime.
"It is an important moment in our season," Roy said, referring to a seven-game homestand that began Sunday with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets. "We're facing good teams. Columbus is a very good team and we're going to have to be sharp for them tonight. It's a great opportunity to try and put some wins together and try to move up in the standings."
The Avalanche will be without right wing PA Parenteau, who is expected to miss about six weeks recovering from a second-degree MCL sprain in his left knee.
Rookie Nathan MacKinnon will take Parenteau's spot on the line with Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny. Jamie McGinn is moving from the third line to MacKinnon's former unit with Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene.
"I have to score, which I haven't been doing," said McGinn, who has one goal in the past 10 games. "I have to put the puck in the back of the net, it's plain and simple."
Three injured Blue Jackets players, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, forward Nathan Horton and defenseman Dalton Prout, skated Tuesday but won't play against the Avalanche. All three could play at some point in the final three games of the team's four-game trip.
Here are the projected lineups for the Blue Jackets and Avalanche: