BLUE JACKETS (19-16-7) at AVALANCHE (14-22-6)
TV: FS-O, ALT2
Last 10: Columbus 6-3-1; Colorado 3-5-2
Season series: This is the third and final meeting, with the home team prevailing in each of the first two. In the most recent showdown on March 3, Artem Anisimov netted the overtime winner to give Columbus a 2-1 victory at Nationwide Arena.
Big story: Columbus will try to continue its Stanley Cup Playoff push Monday in Colorado, the second game of a late-season six-game road swing. The Blue Jackets are 10th in the Western Conference, even on points (45) with the eighth-place Dallas Stars and ninth-place Detroit Red Wings, but having played one more game than both. Colorado won’t be an easy out at home; the Avalanche are 11-7-2 at the Pepsi Center this season.
Blue Jackets: Thanks to three straight wins – all against playoff-eligible teams – Columbus is on the cusp of its first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance since 2008-09. But first, the Jackets must address the road struggles that have plagued them all season. Despite winning three of its last four away from home, Columbus is just 6-11-2 on the road this season as they continue the current six-game trip.
The Blue Jackets started the trip with a win Saturday -- but just barely -- when they squeezed two points from the Minnesota Wild in a 3-2 shootout win. The Wild outshot Columbus, 41-22, as even defenseman Jack Johnson admitted that “sometimes you have to win some games you shouldn’t.” Sergei Bobrovsky, perhaps a candidate for the Vezina Trophy, stood tall yet again, saving 13 of 14 shots in the final period and stoning both Wild shootout attempts in a stellar 39-save effort.
"We were relying on [Bobrovsky] way too much … he had to be way too good," coach Todd Richards said. "We should be happy to get two points, but I want to see us do things right over and over."
Avalanche: With a Western Conference-worst 34 points, Colorado will no doubt be taking an early summer vacation this season. But that didn’t stop the Avalanche on Saturday, when Jan Hejda scored with 7.6 seconds left to lift Colorado past the Northwest-leading Vancouver Canucks, 4-3. With the win, Colorado is 2-0-1 over its past three games after dropping five straight to begin April.
Veteran goaltender Jean-Sebastien Gigeure, who recorded his 250th career win, talked after the game about the importance of ending the season on a positive note.
"I'm happy with the way the guys have responded," Giguere said. "I think we had a lot more media pressure on us, and pressure isn't a bad thing. We need a way to push ourselves and sometimes it comes in different ways. We need to build a winning attitude, that we're not going to give anything for free, and we don't need to wait for next year to do that. We can start right now, and the last three games are a good example of that. It's been a frustrating year. It's not the year that we were expecting and we only have ourselves to blame for that."
Who’s hot: Bobrovsky is 13-4-3 with a 1.48 goals-against average during the past 21 games, including four shutouts. His 2.01 season GAA ranks sixth in the NHL.
Injury report: Blue Jackets defenseman Tim Erixon is questionable for Monday with an upper-body injury, while Anisimov is out indefinitely with a head injury. … Milan Hejduk (shoulder), Erik Johnson (hand), Semyon Varlamov (hip) and Chuck Kobasew (back) are all questionable for Colorado, while Ryan Wilson is on the injured reserve with an ankle injury.