Despite a furious late-season push, the Colorado Avalanche will miss the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. The Calgary Flames, meanwhile, can’t be too thrilled with the way they’re heading into the postseason.
Colorado looks to finish its first non-playoff season in 13 years with a victory Sunday when it faces the struggling Flames at Pepsi Center.
The Avalanche (43-31-7) did just about all they could down the stretch as they tried to catch the Flames (43-28-10) for the final spot in the West, going 14-1-2 before being eliminated with Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Nashville.
Had Colorado beaten the Predators, it could’ve qualified for the playoffs with a victory in this game because Calgary lost its third straight, 3-2 to visiting Edmonton on Saturday.
“It is mind boggling that we aren’t in the playoffs,” Colorado’s Ian Laperriere said. “Not with the way we played down the stretch.”
The Avalanche will miss the postseason for the first time since 1993-94, when they were the Quebec Nordiques.
“I think the guys grew up a lot,” captain Joe Sakic said. “We just have to build on it for next year.”
Ironically, it was former Avalanche stars Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg that were responsible for ending Colorado’s run of 11 straight playoff appearances. Kariya scored the game winner 10:38 into the third period Saturday on a pass from Forsberg, who spent nine seasons with the Colorado-Quebec franchise.
Peter Budaj made 28 saves against the Predators in his first regulation loss since Feb. 22, ending a 13-0-3 run.
Two assists Saturday gave Sakic 97 points. He needs three points in this game for his sixth career 100-point season and first since 2000-01. Sakic has 1,586 career points, leaving him four shy of tying Phil Esposito for eighth place on the all-time list.
Sakic and Gordie Howe are the only players in NHL history to score at least 95 points at 37 years old or older.
Sakic leads the Avalanche in scoring this season against the Flames with 17 points. Rookie Paul Stastny tops Colorado with seven goals in the season series.
Although they have clinched a first-round matchup with top-seeded Detroit, the Flames can’t be happy that a loss in this game would send them into the postseason with a four-game losing streak.
“It’s always nice to make the playoffs, but it’d sure feel a lot better to win and feel good about the win and about being in the playoffs,” Flames captain Jarome Iginla said on the team’s official Web site.
Calgary held a 2-0 lead Saturday at home against struggling Edmonton before the Oilers scored three unanswered goals for only their second win in 20 games.
Iginla is one goal shy of his third career 40-goal season. He has five goals and five assists against the Avalanche this season.
Backup Jamie McLennan is expected to start in goal for Calgary. He is 2-12-0 with one tie and a 2.95 goals-against average in 17 career games against the Avalanche.
The Avalanche have three straight one-goal victories against the Flames and have won four of seven meetings this season. Colorado is 5-1-1 in its last seven home games against Calgary.