Colorado Avalanche Enter Playoff Race Against Calgary

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 25: Nathan MacKinnon
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 25: Nathan MacKinnon /

The Colorado Avalanche are in a must-win situation as they host the Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center. A win is crucial to their playoff hopes.

The Colorado Avalanche are hosting the Calgary Flames tonight in one of the most important games of the season. The two teams are vying for the final wild card playoff berth.

Colorado and Calgary have already played twice this year. The Flames won both times, including a blowout 5-1 last Saturday. Today would be a really good day for some redemption. Tonight marks their third and final meeting.

The Avalanche are coming off a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday. The Flames had two days off before facing the Stars in Dallas last night.

Let’s hope the back-to-back game coupled with the altitude will wear on the Flames a little bit.

How to Enjoy the Game

Game time: February 28, 7:30pm MT
TV Networks: Altitude TV (Avs feed), SN360 (Canucks feed)
Radio: Altitude Radio (AM 950)

Keys to the Game

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The number-one key to the game, and I can’t stress this enough, is that the Colorado Avalanche need to play a full 60 minutes. They cannot come out flat. They cannot let their focus wander. They cannot finish flat. Every single shift needs to be dialed up to 10.

That’s exhausting hockey, for sure. However, this is a playoff game. It’s not two points, it’s not even four points. Tonight’s game can set the stage for the Avalanche’s final 19 games. They need a big, big win against Calgary.

Add to that a little filip — Colorado currently has two goalies undergoing concussion protocol. Thank goodness it’s not starter Semyon Varlamov. However both backup Jonathan Bernier and backup backup Andrew Hammond are out tonight. Spencer Martin has been recalled from San Antonio.

I really don’t want to see Martin in net in this all-important game. So, that brings me to the second key to the game. The forward corps must work together with the depleted Avalanche defense on some serious backchecking. No, really, Avs, make like the Canadian Women’s Team in the Gold Medal Game and disrupt anything in the defensive zone.

Then make like the USA Women’s Team in OT and dominate in the offensive zone.

Players to Watch

Nathan MacKinnon has got his mojo back, and it’s just in time. He had two goals and an assist in the Vancouver game, meaning he had a hand in all three goals. His linemate, Mikko Rantanen, scored his 20th goal of the season — he’s now had back-to-back seasons with 20 goals. He also assisted on one of MacKinnon’s goals.

For secondary scoring, Tyson Jost has also been finding some mojo. He has two goals and two assists in the last five games. I’d like to see the other Tyson, Barrie, redeem himself from the last time the Avs and Flames played, too.

On the Calgary side, you have your usual suspect — Johnny Gaudreau. Little Johnny Hockey has 20 goals and 53 assists for 73 points.

However, the player the Avalanche are going to want to watch out for is big, mean Chris Stewart, whom the Flames just acquired from the (hated) Minnesota Wild. He’s gritty, and he can skate. Add to that he’s a former Avalanche… the players simply need to keep an eye on that one.

Next: How the Avalanche can Make the Playoffs

After tonight the Colorado Avalanche have two more games at home, against the Wild on Friday and the Predators on Sunday.