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Rink Notes: Avs Hit The Road Again

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
It’s the time of the year when NHL fans obsessively watch the scoreboard and refresh the standings, trying to grasp the odds of their favorite team making the postseason or garnering a better seed.

With only nine games left in the regular season and the team holding a six-point advantage over the ninth-place Calgary Flames, it’s safe to say Avalanche fans have reached that point.

The numbers and different situations that would see the Avalanche clinch a playoff berth can be complicated (and we’ll start breaking that down soon enough) but one thing is for sure, a couple of wins this weekend against Phoenix and San Jose could go a long way toward achieving that goal.

That will be no small task, as Colorado’s first opponent has been one of the NHL’s hottest teams lately and the second has been atop the conference for the majority of the year.

The Coyotes went on a roll immediately following the NHL’s March 3 trade deadline, during which they were one of the league’s most active teams. Phoenix won nine straight games with its reshaped roster (including a 3-1 win over Colorado on March 4), but have stumbled a bit in going 0-1-1 in their past two games.

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“They’ve got some good players over there and a good coaching staff,” said netminder Craig Anderson. “I think sometimes you just gel together as a team and right now they’re doing it. They’re playing great hockey right now.”

San Jose, meanwhile, seems to have righted its ship in recent days. After leading the Western Conference for much of the season, the Sharks temporarily lost that spot with a recent stretch that saw them go 0-5-1. Since then, San Jose has won two in a row and will play Vancouver on Saturday before hosting the Avs Sunday.

“There’s so much skill on that team that when you play them, you never go in softly,” said defenseman Kyle Cumiskey. “It’s going to be another tough game and we’re going to have to play our best hockey to win. I think that will be the case for the rest of the year.”

Back Again With Back-To-Backs
If you think the Avalanche has played an inordinate amount of back-to-back contests recently, you’re not mistaken. Over the final 27 days of the 2009-10 NHL season, Colorado has played or will play four sets of back-to-back contests.

Two of those are already in the books, with the third on tap this weekend, as Colorado travels to Arizona to take on the Coyotes tomorrow before heading west to face the Sharks the following night.

Early next month, Colorado will play two games in a row for the final time this year, taking on Vancouver (April 6) and Edmonton (April 7) on consecutive days.

When all is said and done, the Avs will play a total of 16 back-to-back games this season, their most since arriving in Denver.

Practice Notes
Injured forwards David Koci (hand), David Jones (knee) and Brandon Yip (shoulder) again skated together before Friday’s practice…Yip also stayed on the ice and practiced with the team while wearing an orange non-contact sweater, but Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco said there is no solid return date for the forward…Defenseman Ryan Wilson (head) skated briefly after practice, but will not go on the road trip…Veteran forward Stephane Yelle (knee) won’t join the team on the trip either.
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