Avs hobble into matchup with Kings

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Avalanche still haven't given up hope on returning to the playoffs, but another injury to a key player could make it even more difficult.

Nonetheless, the Avalanche will at least get a chance to dampen the Los Angeles Kings' postseason chances when the clubs meet Tuesday in Denver. L.A. is three points behind Winnipeg for the last playoff berth in the Western Conference, while Colorado is four behind the Kings.

Star forward Nathan MacKinnon, last season's Calder Trophy winner, is likely out for the season after suffering a broken foot last week in a win over Pittsburgh. Semyon Varlamov followed suit when the workhorse goaltender sustained an injury Sunday in Minnesota.

Varlamov, who was making his 22nd consecutive start, registered 29 saves against the Wild to help Colorado pick up its third straight victory. However, he left with 5:44 to go in the game with what head coach Patrick Roy deemed a lower-body injury.

The Russian netminder's status for Tuesday is unknown, but he is expected to participate in the morning skate. Varlamov is 22-17-7 with a 2.56 goals against average, .921 save percentage and five shutouts this season. He was named the NHL's second star of the week on Monday.

Reto Berra allowed one goal on four shots in relief of Varlamov, as Colorado held on for the 3-2 win in Minnesota. Calvin Pickard, who did a super job subbing for Varlamov when he was injured earlier in this season, was recalled from the AHL to start tonight in case the club's No. 1 goaltender is unable to play. Pickard, a 22-year-old rookie, is 6-6-3 with a 2.18 GAA this season.

Gabriel Landeskog and Zach Redmond each had a goal and an assist in Sunday's win. Jarome Iginla collected two assists for the Avalanche, who have won eight of their last 11 games.

"I'm very proud of our guys. That's type of hockey we've been playing lately," said Roy.

Colorado raced out to a 3-0 lead, but nearly coughed up the cushion late in the third period. Chris Stewart cut the deficit to 3-1 with 5:56 left in the third and Thomas Vanek made it a one-goal game with 19.4 seconds remaining, scoring with Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk pulled in favor of the extra attacker.

Minnesota's Zach Parise centered a pass into traffic in front of the crease with time winding down, but Avs defenseman Jan Hejda was able to clear the puck away just before the horn sounded.

Los Angeles had a two-game win streak halted Saturday by visiting Pittsburgh, but the 1-0 overtime loss pushed the defending Stanley Cup champions' point run to three games.

Patric Hornqvist scored the only goal on Saturday, tallying 1:44 into OT. Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves for the shutout win, while Jonathan Quick suffered the loss after yielding one goal on 18 shots.

After neither goaltender blinked through regulation, an ill-advised pass by Los Angeles led to the goal. Jeff Carter had the puck along the left corner and sent a pass to the front of his own net for Dwight King, who was unable to handle the puck as Paul Martin came up to cause a turnover.

Hornqvist quickly grabbed the puck in the slot and snapped it in for the victory.

"We played a good game tonight but we have to find a way to get it done and find a way to get on the board," said Kings defenseman Matt Greene.

L.A. hopes to bounce back tonight when it shoots for a fourth straight win in the series versus Colorado. The Kings posted a 4-1 win in Denver on Feb. 18 to kick off the 2014-15 season series and the victory gave Los Angeles a 5-0-1 mark in the last six meetings.

The Avs begin a three-game homestand tonight and are 17-13-3 at the Pepsi Center this season. The Kings are just 10-14-6 as the guest, but have won two straight and five of their last eight tilts in the Mile High City.