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Open Thread: Colorado Avalanche vs. San Jose Sharks (8:30 pm)

The Avs head out west as they look to clinch a playoff spot.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight marks the beginning of the final Colorado Avalanche road trip of the season. After splitting critical divisional contests with Minnesota and Dallas at home last week, the Avs head out west for four games, beginning with two against the San Jose Sharks tonight and Thursday night. Colorado coach Jared Bednar has been fond of saying the Avalanche control their own destiny, and that is true just so long as they don’t slip up against one of the league’s worst teams.

Colorado Avalanche

Bednar wanted to see more urgency out of his team from the start against Dallas after their lackluster opening to the Wild game, and that’s exactly what he got, as the Avs controlled the game against the Stars from start to finish. Colorado will look to build on that momentum, and should they win tonight, that would guarantee them a spot in the playoffs. They can also clinch by getting a point and a Flames loss, or if both the Predators and Flames lose. The bottom line here is the Avs are going to make the playoffs barring some catastrophic and incredibly unlikely developments.

Three months ago, the Avalanche were on the outside of the NHL playoff picture, and since then they have won 26 of 39, good for the second-most wins that span. As disheartening as the Wild loss was, the doom and gloom that followed it was unreasonable, as the Avs are playing as well as any team in the league right now. Some Avs fans expect the team to win every game, which is somewhat understandable given that they have gone 18-6-3 since the All-Star break, but they cannot win every one.

That said, they have to win this game. The Sharks are one of the three worst teams in the NHL, and only the hapless Ducks and Blue Jackets have given up more goals than San Jose. It sounds a bit strange to call a game against a team with the fewest wins in the NHL a “must-win,” but if the Avs want to keep controlling their own destiny, they cannot lose against teams they frankly have no business losing against.

Jared Bednar said at morning skate a few guys would be out. Devon Toews was the quarterback of the first power play unit, indicating Cale Makar may be out tonight as Kurtis MacDermid is playing tonight. Ben Meyers is also playing but we don’t know who is coming out of the lineup.

Colorado Avalanche Projected Lineup:

Evan Rodrigues — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Alex Newhook — J.T. Compher — Valeri Nichushkin
Denis Malgin — Lars Eller — Matt Nieto
Andrew Cogliano — Darren Helm — Logan O’Connor
Ben Meyers

Devon Toews — Sam Girard
Erik Johnson — Bowen Byram
Jack Johnson — Kurtis MacDermid

Alexandar Georgiev

San Jose Sharks Projected Lineup:

Jacob Peterson – Tomas Hertl – Danil Gushchin
Thomas Bordeleau – Logan Couture – Fabian Zetterlund
Noah Gregor – Nico Sturm – Kevin Labanc
Kyle Criscuolo – Steven Lorentz – Jeffrey Viel

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Erik Karlsson
Mario Ferraro – Jacob Macdonald
Radim Simek – Henry Thrun

James Reimer

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