While the Colorado Avalanche have already secured their 12th playoff berth in 13 seasons, their seeding within the Western Conference remains unclear.
|Joe Sakic and the Avalanche could draw Mikko Koivu and the Wild in the first round with a win today. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)
Looking to improve their postseason positioning, the Avalanche host the Minnesota Wild on Sunday in the regular-season finale for both clubs.
Colorado (43-31-7) has won four of its last five games and 13 of 20, including Tuesday's 4-2 victory at Vancouver that helped the Avalanche back to the playoffs after missing out last season. Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk each had a goal and an assist in the win.
Colorado's 93 points rank seventh in the West - one behind Calgary, which has already finished its regular-season schedule. By virtue of having one more win than the Flames, the Avalanche need just one point in this contest to claim the No. 6 seed.
Should that happen, they would face the Northwest Division champion Wild (44-28-9) in a first-round playoff series. The seventh seed would yield a first-round matchup with San Jose.
"You don't really want to look too far ahead, but it can also help with having home-ice advantage down the road," center Tyler Arnason told the Avalanche's official Web site. "The higher up you can get (in the standings) the better off you'll be."
Colorado won't have an easy task against the Wild, who have gone 5-2-0 to win the season series for the first time.
The Avalanche suffered a 3-2 overtime loss at Minnesota last Sunday - their fourth consecutive defeat against to the Wild.
On Tuesday, Colorado goaltender Jose Theodore stopped 27 shots to improve to 4-0-1 with a shutout and a 2.35 GAA in his last five starts. Theodore has also led the Avs to three straight victories at the Pepsi Center.
Meanwhile, the Wild have won four straight games and are seeking to match their longest winning streak of 2007-08, a season-opening run from Oct. 4-14.
They defeated Calgary 3-1 at home on Thursday, in the process clinching the first Northwest Division title in their seven-year history and the No. 3 seed in the playoffs.
Pavol Demitra had two assists, while Marian Gaborik scored two third-period goals and added an assist for Minnesota.
"We keep going like this, we'll be good," said Gaborik, who has four goals and four assists during a five-game point streak.
Gaborik is having a career season, posting single-season bests in goals (42), assists (41) and points (83).
He scored twice in last Sunday's win over Colorado, giving him 16 goals and 31 points in 37 all-time meetings with the Avalanche.
Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom made 26 saves Thursday, improving to 7-0-1 with two shutouts and a 1.41 GAA in his last nine starts. He is 4-1-0 with a 1.98 GAA in five starts against the Avs this season.