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Game 82 Preview: Blackhawks visit Avalanche in season finale

The Avalanche conclude their season against the division rival Chicago Blackhawks.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight for better or worse, the Avalanche's 2014-2015 campaign comes to an end.  After teasing fans with a surprise playoff appearance last year, the Avalanche returned back to earth, and to their non-playoff status quo this season.  Now, while that means that there's no postseason to play for tonight against Chicago, this game is far from meaningless.

The Tryouts:

- Duncan Siemens will make his NHL debut tonight.  His abbreviated one game tryout wont mean much in the long run, but it would be nice for him to leave a positive impression on the Avalanche coaching staff before training camp this fall.  Siemens will likely see limited minutes tonight, but Avs fans have been waiting a long time to see this former 11th overall pick in NHL action and they will be watching every second closely.

- Joey Hishon was the hero against Nashville Tuesday night and his strong play down the stretch has revitalized an Avalanche bottom six that struggled to possess the puck all season.  Hishon's already put together an impressive series of games for the Avalanche, but another strong performance will only help his case as he looks for a contract extension this summer.

- Jordan Caron has played 18 games now for the Colorado Avalanche, including a handful of outings on the 2nd line, but you wouldn't know if based on a cursory look at the stats sheet.  Caron has 0 goals, 0 points, and just shots in his 18 games all while boasting some of the worst possession numbers on an already poor possession team.  It's hard to imagine Caron undoing all that time as the invisible man, but he needs to do something if he wants another professional contract.  The future of this former 1st round pick's NHL career hangs in the balance.

- Freddie Hamilton has seen his ice time shrink considerably after a strong NHL debut with the Avalanche.  Like Caron he's looking for a future contract with the Avalanche and one last strong performance could help his case over the summer.  Either way he's likely to be retained for organizational depth at an AHL level.

The Regulars:

- Will this be Jan Hejda's final game in an Avalanche uniform?  Hejda was a favorite trade target among Avalanche fans on deadline day and given the prices paid for defensemen league-wide, it seems likely that the Avs could have obtained at least a 2nd round pick in return for Hejda's services.  Not trading the defenseman suggests that the Avalanche intend on extending the veteran defender, but his play has suffered since Erik Johnson exited the lineup with a knee injury and things may have changed for the Avs' front office.

- Will this be Ryan O'Reilly's last game in an Avalanche uniform?  Just yesterday Joe Sakic continued dropping hints that if Ryan O`Reilly doesn't "play ball" with the Avalanche this summer and sign an extension, the team may be forced to trade him this offseason.  In Sakic's words: "No one needs the distraction" of O'Reilly's uncertain free agent status hanging over the squad during next season.

- Who will lead the Avalanche in points?  The captain Gabriel Landeskog holds the lead this morning with 58 points, but Jarome Iginla trails him but just one point, and Ryan O'Reilly by three points.

Playoff Positioning:

The Chicago Blackhawks currently sit 3rd in the Central division with 102 points.  They are 2 points behind the Nashville Predators, and 2 points ahead of the wildcard spot Minnesota Wild.  Because of ROW tiebreakers, the Blackhawks cannot pass Nashville for home-ice advantage in the Central Division 1st round matchup, but they could fall into the wildcard and face either the Anaheim Ducks or St. Louis Blues.  An regulation loss for the Blackhawks combined with any type of win for the Minnesota Wild would drop the Blackhawks to 4th in the Central Division.  Then the Blackhawks would play whichever one of the Blues or Ducks earns more points in their final game (tie goes to the Ducks).

The Draft:

The biggest question for every non-playoff team in the NHL... Well what do we get for this? Where do we get to draft?  There's a lot of variance here for the Avalanche.  They could of course win the draft lottery and pick 1st overall but if they don't, then the Avalanche will pick somewhere between 8th overall and 12th overall.

8th Overall: If the Avalanche lose in regulation and the Columbus Blue Jackets earn at least 1 point against the Islanders, then the Avalanche will hold the 8th overall pick before the lottery.  The same holds true if the Avalanche lose in overtime and the Blue Jackets beat the Islanders in any fashion.

9th Overall: The Avalanche enter tonights game with the 9th overall pick, but trail the Sharks and Panthers by just 1 point.  If the Avalanche lose in any fashion, they are guaranteed the 9th overall pick on lottery day.  If the Avalanche win in regulation or overtime, they need the San Jose Sharks to earn at least one point against the LA Kings AND the Florida Panthers to beat the New Jersey Devils in any fashion.  If the Avalanche win in a shootout, then Florida also needs just 1 point to stay ahead of Colorado.

10th Overall: If the Avalanche win in regulation or overtime and the Panthers lose in any fashion OR the Sharks lose in regulation, then the Avalanche hold the 10th overall pick.  If the Avalanche win in a shootout and one of the Sharks or Panthers lose in regulation then the Avalanche hold 10th overall.

11th Overall: If the Avalanche win in any fashion and both the Sharks and Panthers lose in regulation, then the Avalanche move to the 11th overall pick.  If the Avalanche's win is a ROW, then the Panthers can lose in overtime and remain behind the Avs.

12th Overall: The above scenario for 11th overall takes place AND a team with a pick later than the Avalanche wins the Connor McDavid lottery next Saturday.

Tonight's Line Combinations:

Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O`Reilly - Alex Tanguay

John Mitchell - Matt Duchene - Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod - Joey Hishon - Marc Andre Cliche

Jordan Caron - Freddie Hamilton - Daniel Briere

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Jan Hejda - Zach Redmond

Duncan Siemens - Nick Holden

Semyon Varlamov

The pucks drops for the last time at 9:00 PM EST, 7:00 PM MST on Altitude.  The Avalanche are celebrating fan appreciation night, meaning that at the end of the game the Avalanche will give the jerseys off their backs to a number of season ticket holders.