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Playoff Push: Avs make it four in a row

Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 1:07 AM / Countdown to the Playoffs
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Playoff Push: Avs make it four in a row
The Colorado Avalanche are banging on the door in the Western Conference playoff race.
The Colorado Avalanche are banging on the door in the Western Conference playoff race.

Colorado cruised to a 4-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks at the Pepsi Center on Monday night, which moved Joe Sacco's club into a virtual tie with the Dallas Stars for eighth place at 70 points apiece. Dallas has the edge at the moment, having played one fewer game than the Avs.

Already with two more points than they accumulated all of last season, the Avalanche have outscored their opponents by a 17-5 margin during their four-game streak.

"We know what's at stake every time we play," Colorado coach Joe Sacco told NHL.com after Monday night's victory. "There's 18 games remaining and knowing the situation that we're in, it's fun. It should be fun for the players; that's why you play the game -- to be playing meaningful games at this time of the year."
 
With nine games on Tuesday's schedule, here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Monday's action:

Eastern Conference

Division leaders

New York Rangers (86 points after Monday's 2-0 win against New Jersey) increased their lead atop the Eastern Conference by blanking the Devils at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers are in Carolina on Thursday night.

Boston (77 points)
did not play Monday, but added Brian Rolston and Mike Mottau prior to the trade deadline. The Bruins are hosting Ottawa at TD Garden on Tuesday night.

Florida (70 points) was idle Monday, but it did remain in sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division thanks to Winnipeg's loss to Edmonton. The Panthers will visit Toronto on Tuesday night.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (77 points)
begins a brief two-game road trip on Wednesday night at Dallas.

Philadelphia (75 points) did not play Monday. The Flyers will visit San Jose on Tuesday to complete a four-game trip.

New Jersey (74 points after Monday's 2-0 to the Rangers) mustered only 13 shots on goal against Henrik Lundqvist in a loss to the Rangers at MSG. The Devils continue their four-game road trip on Thursday at Boston.

Ottawa (74 points) was idle Monday. The Sens will visit Boston on Tuesday night.

Winnipeg (68 points after Monday's 5-3 loss to Edmonton) failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity to pull even with Florida as it fell on home ice against the Oilers. The Jets will host the Panthers in a huge game at the MTS Centre on Thursday night.

On the outside looking in:

Washington (67 points) did not play Monday. The Caps will host the Islanders on Tuesday at Verizon Center.

Toronto (65 points) was idle Monday. The Leafs, who have won just once in their last nine games, will host Florida on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay (62 points) did not play Monday. The Lightning will host Montreal on Tuesday night.

Buffalo (62 points) did not play Monday. The Sabres are off until Wednesday night, when they will visit Anaheim.


Western Conference

Division leaders

Vancouver (87 points) did not play Monday, but it made a splash at the deadline by adding Samuel Pahlsson and Zach Kassian in separate deals. The Canucks will visit Phoenix on Tuesday.

St. Louis (85 points after Monday's 3-1 win at Calgary) is now the No. 2 seed after dousing the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. With one more regulation victory than Detroit, the Blues are now atop the Central Division standings. St. Louis continues its trip in Edmonton on Wednesday.

Phoenix (73 points) was idle Monday. The Coyotes return to action Tuesday night against Vancouver at Jobing.com Arena.

The next five:

Detroit (85 points)
did not play Monday, but now has company atop the Central Division thanks to the Blues' win at Calgary. The Red Wings will visit Columbus on Tuesday.

Nashville (81 points after Monday's 2-1 win against Los Angeles) was a big-time player at the deadline, landing Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad in separate deals. The Preds then went out and picked up two more valuable points with a win over the Kings at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville will be in Carolina on Tuesday night.

Chicago (73 points) was idle Monday. The Blackhawks return to action against Toronto at the United Center on Wednesday.

San Jose (71 points) finally made it home safely after a mechanical failure on the team's charter forced them to spend an extra night on the road. The Sharks, who finished their nine-game road trip with a record of 2-6-1, will host Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Dallas (70 points) did not play Monday. The Stars will host Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.

On the outside looking in:

Colorado (70 points after Monday's 4-1 win against Anaheim)
now has as many points as eighth-place Dallas after beating the Ducks at the Pepsi Center. Colorado, which has played one more game than the Stars, will host Columbus on Thursday night.

Los Angeles (68 points after Monday's 2-1 loss at Nashville) once again experienced difficulty scoring goals and failed to pull even with Dallas in the standings. The Kings' road trip continues Tuesday night at Minnesota.

Calgary (67 points after Monday's 3-1 loss to St. Louis) came up empty on home ice against the Blues. The Flames are in Phoenix on Thursday night.

Minnesota (65 points) was off Monday. The Wild will host Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Anaheim (64 points after Monday's 4-1 loss at Colorado) fell short with a loss to the Avs at the Pepsi Center. The Ducks will host Buffalo on Wednesday night.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp