The Colorado Avalanche look extremely formidable with the NHL playoffs looming. The Avs, though, can still accomplish a great deal on the final day of the regular season.
Colorado hopes to win a league-record ninth straight division title and secure the third seed in the Western Conference when it takes on the slumping Blues.
While they will need help Sunday, the Avalanche stayed in position to capture the Northwest Division crown by beating Anaheim 4-3 in overtime Friday night. Milan Hejduk scored his second goal of the game and 49th of the season with 10 seconds left in the extra period to lift Colorado.
The victory pulled the Avs to within one point of the Vancouver Canucks in the division. The Avalanche will need to beat St. Louis and have the Canucks lose at home to Los Angeles on Sunday to win the Northwest.
“Vancouver is the heavy favorite, but it’s just one game, and L.A. could win it,” Hejduk said. “We’ve been focused on getting the home-ice advantage in the first round. Once we did that tonight, we tried to win the game.”
The Avalanche succeeded on both counts, guaranteeing that the Blues couldn’t finish in fourth place by earning at least one point for reaching overtime. Colorado is on a 24-5-4-3 tear.
“To still be in the hunt with only one game left says a lot about the guys on this team,” said coach Tony Granato, who replaced the fired Bob Hartley on Dec. 19. “All we can do now is prepare for the game on Sunday.”
Hejduk, whose NHL-leading goal total is one more than Vancouver’s Markus Naslund, will be trying for his first 50-goal season. The fifth-year right wing has 23 goals in his last 29 games.
The Blues are 0-2-2 in their last four, and the Avalanche picking up a point Friday removed any real incentive for St. Louis on Sunday. The Blues will be the fifth seed, with the Avs guaranteed at least fourth place and home-ice advantage in the first round.
St. Louis, though, would like to get back on the winning track before the playoffs start.
The Blues managed to get a point Friday night in a 2-2 draw with Chicago, as Pavol Demitra’s pass deflected in off the stick of the Blackhawks’ Alex Zhamnov early in the third period for the tying goal.
St. Louis’ Chris Osgood looked ready for the playoffs, finishing with 26 saves, including seven in overtime.
“Tonight I thought we played solid ‘D’ and took care of our slot a lot better,” Osgood said. “We definitely played a lot better than we had the previous two or three games, so that’s a good sign.”
STANDINGS: Blues - 99 points, 2nd place, 10 PB, Central Division. Avalanche - 103 points, 2nd place, 1 PB, Northwest Division.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through April 4): Blues - Power play: 20.4 percent (79 for 388), 4th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.0 percent (315 for 384), 22nd. Avalanche - Power play: 18.4 percent (66 for 358), 7th. Penalty killing: 82.6 percent (294 for 356), 21st.
SEASON SERIES: 1-1-1.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 26; Blues, 3-2. At St. Louis, Demitra had two goals and an assist for the Blues as Granato, who didn’t have Forsberg or Joe Sakic in the lineup, lost for the first time in four games as Colorado’s coach.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blues - 18-12-7-3 on the road; Avalanche - 20-9-8-3 at home.