Game 78 Preview: Penguins at Avs

Doug Pensinger

The Avs look to continue an already outstanding season with a win against Pittsburgh in their final regular season game at the Pepsi Center.

So, yesterday was exciting. After a scoreless first period, the Avs absolutely walloped the Blues 4-0 and frustrated them to the point of goonery. It was a tough, physical, statement game, and the guys probably slept really well last night. That's good news - they're going to need that rest for today.

Why is that? Well, the Pittsburgh Penguins are coming to town. I could go on about how Pittsburgh has 103 pts (which is DIFFERENT than the Avs 106 - weird huh?) or how Crosby has 102 pts. I could also mention how they managed to lose to Minnesota 0-4 last night and are 4-5-1 in their last 10.

But that's not the point. Not today.

That's because this is the final Avs home game of the regular season. It doesn't matter who the opponent is - the real story has to be about the change the Pepsi Center and Denver has seen over the course of this year.

This time last season, we were down deep in the Western Conference basement with only 39 points to our name. Our final home game on April 27th usured in a 3-1 loss to Minnesota, but it didn't matter. The team was broken from the moment they stepped on the ice. Then they crumbled when their new golden Captain went out with a concussion 4 games in. Add in the O'Reilly and Las Vegas situations, and it was a utter train wreck complete with explosions that would have shamed even Michael Bay. We were thankful for that loss because it meant the pain was over and could concentrate fully on the single ray of hope that was the draft.

This year's team though... this team. They started out like gang-busters playing fun, fast hockey. They won, which is a concept that had slowly departed the Mile High City over the past decade. It was exciting. Most expected them to fail down the road, and logically, they should have. But somehow, some way, they kept getting better as the season went on. They've beaten EVERY. SINGLE. TEAM. in the NHL at least once. They're still somehow in the running for the President's Trophy, an award they've not won since the spectacular 2000-01 team. They're likely to get home ice advantage against the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

They're young. They're well coached. But most of all, they believe in themselves the way cheesy inspirational sports movie teams do. They have no right to be playing as well as they are, especially not with 3 of their Top 6 out, a defensive core made up of a former head-case, a rookie, two 35+ guys, and three AHL journeymen, and a goalie that looked like he had flat-out given up last year. But here we are, 50 wins later.

Without a doubt, they're the underdogs - the ones no one expected - but they just don't know how to quit. It's been a joy to watch them both at home and on the road this season, and they've reminded Denver that it is a pretty decent little hockey town when given the chance. So, as they finalize their home record and take the jerseys off their backs as a final thank you to the fans tonight, we know that for the first time in 4 years, they'll be back to play more hockey in just a few weeks time.

So, good luck tonight, Avs. Good luck on your upcoming 4 game road trip too. Just be sure that when you come back, your Stanley Cup Attitude is still intact. The Pepsi Center and Game 1 of the 2014 NHL Playoffs will be waiting for you.

***

Avalanche Lineup (Tentative):

Landeskog - Stastny - Mitchell
O'Reilly - MacKinnon - McGinn
Talbot - Cliche - Bordleau
Wilson - Malone - Carey

Hejda - Johnson
Holden - Barrie
Benoit - Guenin

Varlamov

Penguins Lineup (Tentative):

Kunitz - Crosby - Bennett
Gibbons - Sutter - Neal
Megna - Ebbett - Stempniak
Pyatt - Adams - Glass

Orpik - Martin
Niskanen - Despres
Scuderi - Bortuzzo

Fleury

Puck Drop:

6PM MDT at the Pepsi Center. RDS2 and Altitude will be covering the game.

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