The Colorado Avalanche still have a chance to make the playoffs thanks to their best run of the season. The Nashville Predators have stumbled a bit down the stretch, but can still clinch home-ice advantage for the first round of the postseason.
Both teams try to take a step toward their goals at the Pepsi Center Saturday when they meet for the fourth and final time this season.
Colorado (43-30-7) is ninth in the Western Conference with 93 points, three behind Calgary. Both squads have two games left and meet in the season finale on Sunday in Denver.
To earn their 12th straight postseason appearance, the Avalanche need to win their final two games and hope the Flames lose to Edmonton on Saturday.
“We know we have to do our part,” Avalanche right wing Milan Hejduk said. “We have to win all the games for the rest of the regular season and we need some help from other teams. But it would be unbelievable (if we get in). We are definitely one of the hottest teams in the league. If we can make it, anything can happen.”
Colorado is 14-1-2 in its last 17 games and won its fourth straight on Thursday, 3-1 over Vancouver. Hejduk provided all the offense with his fourth career hat trick and Paul Stastny assisted on all three goals for the Avs, who outshot the Canucks 30-18.
Hejduk has come on lately, tallying 38 points in his last 31 games after recording 30 in his first 47 contests. Peter Budaj has also been tough to beat, going 13-0-2 with a 2.20 goals-against average in his last 15 games. He has won both starts versus the Predators (50-23-8) this season.
“We believe we can beat any kind of team,” Budaj said. “Hopefully we carry this momentum into the end of the season. We just want to focus on our side, on our end. We can’t control what’s going to happen with Calgary, hopefully we get some help.”
Colorado hasn’t needed much help at home, winning four of its last five games there. The Avs have taken two of three meetings between these teams this season, including a 4-3 win in their most recent matchup on Jan. 30.
That defeat began a stretch of nine road losses in 13 games for the Predators after they started the season 18-9-0 away from home. Nashville snapped an overall three-game skid with a 4-1 victory over St. Louis on Thursday, setting franchise records for wins (50) and points (108) in a season.
“It was important for us to play well,” said Paul Kariya, who notched his 500th assist and leads the Predators with 75 points. “We were better (Tuesday) against Chicago, but especially the past two weeks, we haven’t been playing good hockey. It was important for us to get a win, but also to play well, and play a solid, 60-minute game.”
It was Nashville’s fourth win in the last 11 games, a poor stretch which cost the club a chance at its first Central Division title in team history. The Predators can still earn the fourth seed and home ice in the first round of the playoffs with a point in their season finale on Saturday.
“It’s something we have to move forward with,” Legwand said. “You’re going to play a good team in the first round either way you look at it. Home ice is always good and something we look forward to.”