With their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, the Colorado Avalanche will try to do their part to stay alive in the postseason race when they host the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at the Pepsi Center.
The Avalanche are four points behind San Jose for the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot with two games left for both teams.
Colorado needs plenty of help from other teams to claim that final berth. In addition to winning their final two tests, the Avs also need San Jose to lose twice to Los Angeles in regulation and also for Dallas to gain no more than two points in its last two games against Nashville and St. Louis. The Sharks play the first of a home-and-home series with the Kings tonight in Los Angeles, while the Stars are playing in Nashville.
"We're still thinking positive thoughts in here," forward Matt Duchene told the Denver Post earlier this week. "We have a shot. Maybe not the best, but we are going to keep believing."
The Avalanche will certainly be well-rested for tonight's test, as Colorado last played on Friday night when it recorded a 4-1 win in Calgary. The Avs have also won nine of their last 11 games against the Blue Jackets, although Columbus did record a 2-0 win in Denver when the clubs last met on March 1.
Colorado had won four straight on home ice versus the Blue Jackets before Columbus' shutout win last month.
Semyon Varlamov turned in another strong effort for the Avalanche in last Friday's win over the Flames, as the Russian netminder stopped 38 shots to lead Colorado to victory at the Saddledome. It was the fourth time in seven outings that Varlamov had surrendered one goal or less.
Mark Olver, David Jones, Milan Hejduk and Peter Mueller lit the lamp and Gabriel Landeskog and Erik Johnson added two assists for the Avalanche.
Colorado, which will close its regular season Saturday against visiting Nashville, is 22-15-2 as the home club this year.
The Blue Jackets will finish last in the NHL this season, but Columbus is playing hard down the stretch. The last-place club had won three straight before losing Tuesday's 2-0 decision in Phoenix. Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith stopped 54 shots to frustrate the Blue Jackets and post his third straight shutout.
Allen York made 20 saves for the Blue Jackets, who were trying to match their longest winning streak of the season.
Columbus is 11-25-4 as the guest this year and is playing its final road game of the season tonight. The Blue Jackets will complete their forgettable campaign in Saturday's home test against the New York Islanders.