Back in January, I detailed how by capturing 60 percent of points from their difficult post-All-Star game stretch, and 90 percent of points from their incredibly easy final quarter of the season, the Colorado Avalanche could win the Western Conference. It seemed like a stretch at the time, but going into the final two weeks of the season, the Avs have a chance to pull it off.
They currently sit three points back of the first-place Minnesota Wild in the Central and five points back of Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights, with a game in hand on each team. Tonight’s contest against the Stars will go a long way towards determining who and where the Avs play in the first round of the playoffs.
Colorado won 61.5 percent of possible points from their post-All-Star game schedule and looked to keep that lofty 90 percent figure in range until a painful loss to the first-place Wild this week, as they have currently won 77 percent of possible points from this stretch against a litany of teams tanking for Connor Bedard. If they win the rest of their games, they will have 110 points, two ahead of Vegas's current pace. The dream is not dead just yet.
Hence why this game against Dallas is a must-win, and that’s before you get to the fact that the Avs need to reclaim some pride after getting rolled 7-3 in their last contest against the Stars. The loss to the Wild on Wednesday narrowed their path to the top of the division and the West fairly dramatically, and given that Dallas currently sits two points ahead of the Avs in the standings, Colorado needs to win this game to keep pace.
The Avs are expected to play the same lineup from the Minnesota game, but there was some drama going into today about a potential change. Ben Meyers was called up yesterday, so speculation that another injury was about to be announced was rampant. Today, Jared Bednar said it was an emergency call-up, and Meyers has been reassigned. He wouldn’t elaborate on who Meyers potentially could have replaced due to injury.
Valeri Nichushkin — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Alex Newhook — J.T. Compher — Evan Rodrigues
Denis Malgin — Lars Eller — Matt Nieto
Andrew Cogliano — Darren Helm — Logan O’Connor
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Samuel Girard — Bowen Byram
Jack Johnson — Erik Johnson
Dallas needs to win this game to stave off one of the hottest teams in the NHL and turn the division into a two-team race. After losing five out of six to close February and swing open the Central Division chase, Dallas has regained their footing, going 10-5 into tonight’s pivotal contest. Those “last 20 games” graphics that Altitude has been showing are helpful context to show how the division race got to this point where Minnesota overtook the Stars, but Dallas’ last 15 games are a lot more indicative of their current play.
The Avs will have their hands full with the Stars' top line again, as it is one of the best in the NHL. In the last game where Dallas did whatever they wanted, Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski ran all over the Avalanche, combining for two goals and four assists.
That Dallas top line is ridiculous. +41.9/-26.6 in chances and +49/-23 in goals. Menaces. pic.twitter.com/xbZSvI1nma— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) April 1, 2023
Jason Robertson – Roope Hintz – Joe Pavelski
Jamie Benn – Wyatt Johnston – Evgenii Dadonov
Radek Faksa – Max Domi – Tyler Seguin
Joel Kiviranta – Luke Glendenning – Ty Dellandrea
Miro Heiskanen – Colin Miller
Esa Lindell – Jani Hakanpaa
Ryan Suter – Joel Hanley
Usually, I try to hedge a little bit in this section, as we don’t always hear from the team on who is starting before this preview goes up, and you never know how coaches will truly plan out their goaltending rotation, but given the urgency of this game and the immense skills of both No. 1 goalies, we at Mile High Hockey can 100 percent guarantee that Jake Oettinger and Alexandar Georgiev will be in net tonight.