The Colorado Avalanche return to action tonight against the Arizona Coyotes after having four days off between games. The Avalanche last played on Saturday evening, a game against the Calgary Flames that the Avalanche held on to win 3-2. That win kept the slim hopes of playoff hockey in Denver this season alive.
The four days off will certainly allow players to rest up and heal any minor injuries that were brushed under the rug and never made official. For some players the five days off was not enough. The season is over for enforcer Patrick Bordeleau and depth forward Jamie McGinn, combined these two only played 20 games this season. Calder Trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon is also done for the season barring a deep playoff run after breaking his ankle earlier in the season.
However defensman Erik Johnson has been expected to return and following the break, returning during this five game road swing is a real possibility. Nothing official has been announced about Johnson, and while he is not expected to play tonight, he is close to returning.
Johnson was on fire and was expected to travel to the NHL All Star game in Columbus this season before it was announced that he was injured. In only 47 games this season Johnson has a career high 12 goals. Johnson only had 9 goals in 80 games last season and went goalless in the lockout shortened season of 2012-2013.
The Avalanche only have 13 games remaining in the schedule including tonight’s game against the dessert dogs. 12 of those games are against western conference teams, a home game against the Buffalo Sabres being the only outlier. Nine of the games that remain are against teams in the Pacific division, including all the games during this five game road swing which will take the Avalanche to Glendale, Anaheim, and then into Canada for the last three games.
The Avalanche will wrap up the season with three straight home games all against fellow Central division teams. If the Avalanche continue to win games, the entire season may come down to the next to last game of the season which will be played on Thursday April 9 against the Winnipeg Jets.
As of now the Jets hold the last wild card spot in the west with 82 points. The Avalanche currently sit seven points behind them with 75. If the avalanche win more games then they lose down the stretch that game between these two teams may propel one team to the playoffs and may punch the others teams ticket to a long off season. The Avalanche have put themselves in a tough spot and will have to play their way out of it and into the post season. This four day break is exactly what the doctor ordered with only a bakers dozen of games remaining in the season.