The Colorado Avalanche wraps up its 2018-19 regular season this evening at the San Jose Sharks and will use nearly the same lineup as it did on Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Avs needed one point against the Jets to secure a spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime. Erik Johnson tallied the game-winner in the extra frame to give Colorado the 3-2 victory over Winnipeg and send the Pepsi Center crowd into a frenzy.
It's not uncommon for NHL head coaches to rest some of their players that see a lot of ice time after teams clinch a postseason berth, but that is not the tactic Avs bench boss Jared Bednar will take against the Sharks.
"We talked to our leadership group, everyone wants to play. There is still something to play for, that seventh seed, and we are going to play to win the hockey game," said Bednar. "We are going to go with the same lineup, and we will try not to overwork guys certainly. We want to play hard so we are not just sitting back on our heels.
"We are going to play [Semyon Varlamov] in net, get him another start here so we have both goalies active and ready going into the playoffs. We are going to play our lineup, and we are going to play to win."
Varlamov was between the pipes on Tuesday in Colorado's 6-2 victory against the Edmonton Oilers and made 27 saves to earn his 20th win of the season. It was the first time he was in net since March 15.
Philipp Grubauer has started nine of Colorado's last 10 outings in goal and is 7-0-2 in those contests with a 1.63 goals-against average and .953 save percentage. The 7-0-2 run matches his career-long streak without a regulation loss, something he has set twice before, including once earlier this campaign.
The only other difference to the Avalanche's roster is that forward Andrew Agozzino will no longer be a healthy scratch, as he was reassigned to the Colorado Eagles of the America Hockey League.
Today marks the final day of the 2018-19 campaign, with 30 of the league's 31 teams in action (Anaheim Ducks wrapped up their season on Friday). The Avs are still not sure who they will face in the NHL's second season as there are an assortment of possibilities.
Colorado could finish in the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference if the Dallas Stars lose to the Minnesota Wild in regulation today and Colorado defeats the Sharks in any fashion. The seventh seed will play the winner of the Central Division, which could be either the Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues or Winnipeg Jets.
If the Avalanche finishes in the second wild-card position, the club will play the Calgary Flames, the winner of the Pacific Division and the top seed in the West. The Flames have 107 points and a 50-24-7 mark before they finish the regular season against the Edmonton Oilers today.
"We are a confident team but yet we know that there is a lot of hard work ahead, the real work is just starting," said Bednar. "We have to grow in the area where last year there wasn't a whole bunch of expectations going into the playoffs, and I think this year, having been there last year, that our team is hungry for more and really wants to show that we belong and go have a real good series here against whoever we are playing."
Below is the Avalanche's projected forward combinations and defensive pairings. They are subject to change.
92 Gabriel Landeskog - 29 Nathan MacKinnon - 13 Alexander Kerfoot
22 Colin Wilson - 34 Carl Soderberg - 37 J.T. Compher
83 Matt Nieto - 18 Derick Brassard - 11 Matt Calvert
10 Sven Andrighetto - 17 Tyson Jost - 57 Gabriel Bourque
49 Samuel Girard - 6 Erik Johnson
16 Nikita Zadorov - 4 Tyson Barrie
28 Ian Cole - 12 Patrik Nemeth
1 Semyon Varlamov
31 Philipp Grubauer
Healthy Scratches: 27 Ryan Graves, 44 Mark Barberio
Injury Report: 91 Vladislav Kamenev (shoulder), 96 Mikko Rantanen (upper body)