Colorado Avalanche Need Home Win Against Red Wings

DENVER, CO - MARCH 15: Mikko Rantanen
DENVER, CO - MARCH 15: Mikko Rantanen /

The Colorado Avalanche need to access some of their home mojo to beat the Detroit Red Wings and gain some footing in the tough Western Conference race.

The Colorado Avalanche are a strong home team, and they need to channel that strength as they face the once-rival Detroit Red Wings. It’s not that Detroit is so good — they’re second to last in the Eastern Conference — it’s that Colorado needs the points that badly.

The Colorado Avalanche are coming off a hard-fought game that still saw them lose to the NHL leaders, the Nashville Predators. To tell you how good they are, Nashville is the first team to have clinched a playoff spot with their 104 points.

The Red Wings, naturally, failed to do the Avs a solid and beat the Ducks on Friday. They lost to the Ducks 4-2.

How to Enjoy the Game

Game time: March 18, 1:00 pm MT
TV Networks: Altitude TV (Avs feed), FS-D (Wings feed)
Radio: Altitude Radio (AM 950)

Secondary Scoring

More from Mile High Sticking

As (hockey) god-like as Nathan MacKinnon is right now, the Colorado Avalanche cannot depend on him alone, or even his line alone, to carry the day. In the last two games, though, the MacKinnon line was the only one that produced.

In the game against the (hated) Minnesota Wild, rookies Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher scored — the latter scored twice. It would be really good for them to get back into the scoring mojo.

Defenseman Tyson Barrie is one point away from having his second 50-point season. Today would be a great day to make that milestone.

The Carl Soderberg line has been kept off the scoresheet for everything from two (Blake Comeau) to six (Matthew Nieto) games. They’ve been a consistent force on the ice, especially defensively. However, they need to produce.

Rookie Alexander Kerfoot has hit a wall. He hasn’t recorded a point in 11 games. However, I’d be satisfied to see him get out of this game intact. If he completes his 69th NHL game today, he’ll have gotten past the marker our only other Harvard grad set, Steve Moore. I know it’s weird to look at this game with such a superstitious eye, but I simply want our second-ever Harvard grad to eclipse that important milestone.

Erik Johnson Close to Return

Defenseman Erik Johnson may be close to a return. He’s been skating for a couple weeks now and stick handling for about a week now. Johnson suffered a separated shoulder in the February 18 game against the Edmonton Oilers and has been out since then.

After the Nashville game, coach Jared Bednar stated he’s be talking with the training and medical staff to discuss a timeline for Johnson’s return. He said he expected to know more on Sunday.

I’m going to guess that, as long as the Avalanche are doing well without Johnson, they’ll continue to let him heal and get any residual soreness out of his shoulder. The team has gone 7-2-4 without Johnson — a testimony to how they’ve come together.

That said, Colorado is one of four teams in the Western Conference that has 84 points, the other three being the Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, and Anaheim Ducks. The Avs have a game in hand over all of them, and the first wild card berth. However, the fact that LA has the third seed in the Pacific, Dallas the second wild card berth, and Anaheim is currently out tells you how tight the race is.

In other words, “knowing more Sunday” may well mean whether Colorado wins or loses. If the Avs lose and are in danger of dropping back out of their wild card spot, Johnson may be back sooner rather than later.

I want to see Erik Johnson back, but not before he’s well-healed. As Colorado moves down the stretch and faces some seriously tough games their last week of play, they’ll need their best defenseman to be 100%. That, along with the need for points, is why the Avs simply must beat the Wings.

That and, you know, we hate them.

Next: Avs Wings Brawl of 1997

This is the second and final game between the once-rival teams. The Colorado Avalanche took the last game to overtime in their last meeting, at the Pizza Box in Detroit. No surprise, Nathan MacKinnon was the overtime star of that game. Carl Soderberg, the exiled Nail Yakupov, and the hopefully-back-soon Erik Johnson scored in that game.

After tomorrow’s game against the Wings, Colorado heads off on a single game roadie, to face the Blackhawks in Chicago.