DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche players will know Thursday night whether they still have a chance to earn a Western Conference playoff spot or can begin making offseason plans.
In order to remain in the hunt for the eighth and final postseason berth, the Avalanche need a regulation win against the Columbus Blue Jackets and hope the Los Angeles Kings can beat the San Jose Sharks at home in regulation.
The Avalanche also would need a win Saturday against Nashville, while the Sharks would need to lose in regulation that night to the Kings at home. Complicating matters, the Stars can't collect more than two points in their final two games, Thursday at Nashville and Saturday at home against the St. Louis Blues.
"All we can control is what we do tonight, and it starts with a good start to the game and playing playoff hockey," said Avalanche left wing Jamie McGinn, who will return to the lineup after missing one game with a back injury. "If we do that and set the tempo, we take care of our end and hopefully everything else works out and San Jose loses tonight."
The Avalanche enters Thursday's games 10th in the Western Conference with 88 points and 32 regulation/overtime wins. The Sharks are eighth with 92 points and 33 regulation/overtime wins, while the Dallas Stars sit ninth with 89 points and 35 regulation/overtime wins.
"You can't get too stressed or uptight about it," McGinn said. "We have to be relaxed and just play our game. I hope the Kings pull it out tonight, but we can't worry about that. We just have to worry about what we do tonight, and that's getting two points."
Avalanche coach Joe Sacco acknowledged his team's chances of sneaking into the playoffs aren't good.
"I know the percentages are low, but all of a sudden if we get a win tonight and San Jose loses and they don't come out with a point, Saturday night's games become pretty important for both teams," Sacco said. "We'll see what happens."
These are the projected lineups for both teams Thursday:
R.J. Umberger - Derick Brassard - Cam Atkinson
Vinny Prospal - Mark Letestu - Rick Nash
Ryan Russell - Ryan Johansen - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Darryl Boyce - Jared Boll
Jack Johnson - James Wisniewski
Nikita Nikitin - Dalton Prout
Aaron Johnson - Brett Lebda
Left wing Kristian Huselius (lower body), center Derek MacKenzie (concussion), defensemen Radek Martinek (concussion), Marc Methot (jaw), John Moore (foot) and Fedor Tyutin (hand), and goalie Curtis Sanford (leg) are out.
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Mark Olver - Matt Duchene - Milan Hejduk
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Peter Mueller
Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Matt Hunwick - Tyson Barrie
Defenseman Ryan Wilson (torso) is out.