Thursday's contest against the visiting Minnesota Wild is the Colorado Avalanche's final home game of the season, and as such, the match will feature a celebration of the supporters that have stuck it out with the Avs this season.
An annual tradition, Fan Appreciation Night will feature giveaways galore, special ceremonies and other content aimed at honoring those who make the game worth playing.
"Regardless of our results this year, we've had a lot of people come out and support us. We're real grateful for that," forward Matt Duchene said following the team's final morning skate at Pepsi Center. "Maybe it's not deserved, but we appreciate it all the same. It just goes to show the great fanbase we have here in Colorado."
The festivities will conclude with a "Jerseys Off Our Backs" presentation, where lucky fans selected during the game will be invited onto the ice after the contest to receive a sweater directly off a member of the 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche squad.
Video: Gabriel Landeskog after the Avs' morning skate
"It's really important. These are the people that have been behind us all year long. It's been amazing how they just keep coming back," Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog said of Fan Appreciation Night. "We know it's been a really tough year and the results haven't been there for us, but the fans have always been there. They've kind of been the one steady piece throughout the whole thing and been there night in and night out, and it means a lot for us. We want to finish this thing off the right way and get a last win on home ice."
Colorado wants to reward the fan support with one last triumph at home, and if the way they've been playing in friendly territory lately is any indicator, a final win is very possible.
"Things are winding down here, obviously, and we liked the way we played in our last two home games," said head coach Jared Bednar. "So our goal is to focus on tonight's game and make sure that we're putting ourselves in the same position, playing hard for the game here and trying to finish things out at home on a high note, win three in a row."
"We talked about it all week, to finish this thing off the right way," Landeskog said. "It's been a tough year, but [we want to] at least finish it off the right way, especially this last home game. We exchange jerseys with the fans and stuff like that at the end, so make sure we win this one for the fans."
The Avs are coming off a 4-3 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks that saw the home team overcome a 3-0 deficit while also firing 51 shots on goal. That's the kind of effort they're looking to replicate on Thursday night.
Video: Jared Bednar's morning skate news conference
"I think the big key last game was we had four lines going. Everybody was playing and everybody was playing well and taking care of the puck in the neutral zone and getting it in deep," said Landeskog. "And when we get it in deep, we know their D-zone structure good enough so we can take care of that and come up with some scoring chances. But if we don't take care of the puck in the neutral zone, we don't get 51 shots.
"It seems like we're creating a lot more offense at home now. At the start of the year, there was almost a time where it was opposite. We had tough times at home, and we were better on the road. It's weird how it works. You look at the last game, [we had] 51 shots or whatever and a lot of quality scoring chances as well. So we got to keep doing those little things and take care of the puck, and eventually we're going to create scoring chances and goals."
Added Duchene: "We want to end the year on a good note. We played a hell of a game last game, top to bottom. Everybody was on their game, and we showed what we can do when we're dialed in. It would be great to finish the year playing that kind of hockey."
Video: Francois Beauchemin on the Avs' recent play
Avalanche rookie Mikko Rantanen will miss his second-straight contest this evening after taking a puck off the foot during Tuesday's pregame skate.
"He's still out. He's not going to be able to go today, but he should be on the road trip for us," said Bednar. "He's still day-to-day."
Rantanen shares the team lead in goalscoring (18) with Duchene.
The Avs will have forward Blake Comeau and freshman defenseman Anton Lindholm back in the lineup, however. Both players missed Tuesday's win due to lower-body injuries.
"Comeau will be back in, and Lindholm is coming back in," said Bednar. "[Cody] Goloubef will be out on 'D.' We're still waiting on a few guys that are questionable for tonight up front, but if everyone is healthy than probably [Joe] Colborne would be the guy that comes out for Comeau."
Additionally, it seems that both Rocco Grimaldi and Duncan Siemens will play in their second-straight contest with the club.
When forward Sven Andrighetto takes the ice at Pepsi Center this evening, he will be skating in his 100th career NHL game.
"I don't remember the 100 one," laughed defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who tried to recall what a milestone of that kind is like. "I hit 800 this year earlier in the season. It's always a fun, good accomplishment when you look back at it. But when you're young like him and you hit the 100th game, it's fun to do. He's been playing really good lately with our guys… It's a good accomplishment."
The Zurich, Switzerland, native has skated in 16 matches with the Avs and has put up 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in that time.
The 24-year-old right wing, who was acquired from Montreal at the trade deadline on March 1, led all Avalanche players in March in both points (11) and goals (5). He had a career-long four-game point streak from March 23-29, which included back-to-back multi-point contests on March 27 at the Calgary Flames (two goals) and March 29 versus the Washington Capitals (two assists), both of which tied career highs.
DUCHENE CRACKS TOP 10
When Matt Duchene buried his short-handed goal, and added two helpers for good measure, in Tuesday's 4-3 overtime win against the Blackhawks, he further etched himself in the Avalanche record book.
Video: Matt Duchene before the game against the Wild
The 26-year-old forward took sole possession of 10th place on the franchise's all-time points list with 417, surpassing Valeri Kamensky (414) when the final horn sounded.
"Obviously, it's pretty cool. It's an honor. This is a team I followed and loved growing up, so to be in that position, it's pretty cool," said Duchene, who was surprised by the accomplishment. "I didn't really know that until you just told me, but it's something I appreciate a lot."
Duchene's running legacy doesn't end there either. The Haliburton, Ontario, native ranks seventh in Avalanche/Nordiques history in goals (174) and is 11th in assists (243).
While he didn't pot the overtime-winning marker, Duchene's 28 career game-winning goals are tied with Alex Tanguay for seventh on the franchise list.
"We had a big win last game and played really well," Duchene said. "I think we showed what we're capable of doing. Obviously, this season got away from us, but there's lots to be excited about going forward."
COMMUNITY CLEAR OUT
Video: Alexis talks about the Community Clear Out
Want to get your hands on some cheap and possibly unique Avalanche memorabilia?
Make sure you head outside section 140 at Pepsi Center throughout the game.
Colorado's community relations department is clearing out old inventory and everything is listed for a low price. Items include player-worn jerseys, signed pucks and game programs, autographed sticks and more.
All proceeds benefit Kroenke Sports Charities.