And Down the Stretch They Come

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 08: Jamie McGinn #11 and Paul Stastny #26 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate a goal against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on March 8, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

This should be fun. Your Colorado Avalanche have continued to defy the naysayers and are right in the thick of a playoff hunt. It's going to be tough to get it done, but it sure is nice to even be having this conversation right now. This upcoming week, with 4 games - Anaheim, Buffalo, the Devils and the Rangers - might be the biggest week of regular season hockey for the Avs since late in the 2008 season. In early April of that year, the Avalanche were barely holding on to 8th place in the Western Conference race and had lost 3 of their previous 4, but with the help of some Forsberg guy, they had a great week beating Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton - all teams fighting for a playoff spot - ultimately propelling the Avs into the postseason.

It would be nice to have another week like that. This week won't decide the race, but it's still going to have a huge factor in the standings. No team has played more games than the Avs to date and it is brutal to see the Avs fall two places in the standings by being idle, as happened tonight (thanks for nothing, Minnesota and Chicago).

Here's how the schedules shape up for the teams close to the Avs in the standings shape up for the week:

GP GP Pts ROW TW Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
7 Phoenix 69 78 29 4 GP Nas @Van @Cal @Edm
8 Calgary 69 76 29 4 GP SJ Pho @Edm CBJ
9 LA 69 76 27 3 GP Det @Ana Nas
10 Colorado 70 76 28 4 GP Ana @Buf @NJ @NYR
11 San Jose 67 75 27 4 GP @Edm @Cal Nas Det

Everyone but Los Angeles will play 4 games this week and all teams will play a set of back-to-back games. The Avs are the only one in the group who will not be playing a team they are battling in the standings. That could work both ways. The Avs could get a few wins while everyone else beats each other up (and Edmonton goes on a tear). Or, the Avs could falter while everyone else piles up the ridiculous 3-point games.

All four games this week for Colorado are against quality opponents, so this will be a big test for the young team. It would be nice to see the Avs get at least 5 points this week, but that won't be an easy task. Then again, it doesn't get any easier in the postseason, so perhaps this is just the sort of test that this team needs to face...and overcome.

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