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The clincher?

The Avalanche take the ice tonight at 6pm eastern time. When they do, they'll have a chance to clinch a postseason berth, although they'll need a little help to do it. A Colorado win coupled with a regulation loss by Nashville or Vancouver puts us into the postseason (I had said yesterday that both teams need to lose, but that was incorrect).

There's actually something else that's rather exciting. The Avs are a Calgary loss away from controlling their own destiny in the division race. If the Avs win their final 3 games, they'll pass Minnesota in the standings (as long as one of the two wins against the Wild come in regulation). Winning their final three would put Colorado at 96 points and 45 wins. The best the Wild could do under that scenario would also be 96 points, but they'd only have 43 wins (again, one Colorado win would have to be in regulation). As of this morning, Calgary can get to 98, but with one regulation loss and they too would have a maximum of 96 points and 43 wins. So, 3 Colorado wins, an avoidance of OT with Minnesota, and a Calgary loss puts us in the #3 seed.

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There's still 13 teams in the mix, but the field should start thinning shortly. Columbus needs a win to stay alive. Phoenix is bumped out with a loss and a win by either Nashville or Vancouver. Chicago will still be in the hunt after today no matter how they fare, but, obviously they need a win to help out their cause.

Games that impact us today:

Nashville at Detroit (3pm eastern): One of several key games for Colorado today. A Nashville regulation loss here opens the door for the Avalanche to clinch later in the evening. On the other end of the ice, Detroit can clinch the #1 seed with a win and a San Jose loss (regulation or OT).

Colorado at Minnesota (6pm eastern): No matter what happens with Nashville, we want a win here, preferably in regulation. Minnesota is the only NW team the Avs don't own the head-to-head tiebreaker with; Colorado has just 4 points in head-to-head games but Minnesota has 8. The Avs, though, can even the tiebreaker up with two regulation wins and, barring something extraordinary, have the goal differential advantage over the Wild (+10 vs +3).

Columbus at Chicago (7pm eastern): This game is only of nominal interest. Both teams have slim playoff hopes, but neither can catch us. Columbus is eliminated with a loss of any kind.

Phoenix at San Jose (8pm eastern): Another game of only marginal importance to us. San Jose needs a win and a regulation loss by Detroit to stay in the hunt for the #1 seed. Otherwise, they are the #2. Phoenix almost needs to win their final 4 games to even have a shot.

Dallas at Anaheim (8pm eastern): This could easily be a preview of a first-round playoff matchup, as the teams currenty are the 4th and 5th seeds. The Avs technically could still catch both teams, but doing so would probably mean a first round series against the Ducks. I wouldn't mind avoiding that.

Calgary at Vancouver (10pm eastern): No matter what happens in Minnesota and Detroit, I'm rooting for Vancouver here. We'll own all the playoff tiebreakers if we end up in a tie with Calgary and that seems much more likely than the Canucks catching us in the standings. And, again, if the Avs win in regulation and the Canucks win in regulation tonight, Colorado will control their own destiny.