Here we go, one win away from earning the Presidents’ Trophy and West Division title for home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Avalanche need to defeat Los Angeles on Thursday at Ball Arena for this happen and take on St. Louis in the first round beginning Monday.
They are two points behind Vegas, which completed its season Wednesday. The Avalanche would win the tiebreaker with more regulation wins; it’s 34-30 now.
Lose, whether it’s in regulation, overtime or shootout and they finish second to play Minnesota starting Sunday.
Here are the GAME NOTES.
Here’s my NHL.com GAME RECAP.
The Avalanche previously won the Presidents’ Trophy in 1996-97 and 2000-01, taking home the Stanley Cup in 2001. They have won nine division titles since moving to Denver in 1995 and two others as the Quebec Nordiques.
The Avalanche will be counting on backup Jonas Johansson
to deliver the goods, giving Philipp Grubauer
a day to recover and rest for the playoffs after he made 18 saves Wednesday in a 6-0 rout of the Kings when J.T. Compher
scored his first NHL hat trick.
Coach Jared Bednar
said he considered taking Grubauer out after the second period with the Avalanche in front by six goals.
“I thought about it, but it’s his night and Johansson’s been good for us,” Bednar said after the game. “You got to be fair to Johansson too. He’s been doing a good job with his preparation, he knows it’s his game (Thursday).
“We get the lead and Grubi deserves the right to finish that game and JJ’s ready to go (Thursday). If we play the way we can play in front of him, we’ll give ourselves a good chance to win. We’re going to need to make sure these guys are sharp going into the playoffs.”
A surprise? Grubauer is having a Vezina Trophy-like season, but Bednar said he likes how Johansson has played and pointed out that Grubauer hasn’t played back-to-back games this season.
“We don’t want to risk an injury or put him in a position where he does something that he normally doesn’t do,” Bednar said.
Center Nathan MacKinnon
won’t play either. He’ll miss his second straight game and fourth in the past five with a lower-body injury.
The Avalanche didn’t have a morning skate, but Bednar said Wednesday that he was hopeful MacKinnon would be available for Game 1 of the playoffs, a statement that gives us all some pause.
The Kings can be expected to put up more resistance than they did Wednesday after coach Todd McLellan
was heavily critical of their effort.
“We need an effort, we need a group of guys that actually care about finishing the season,” he said. “Individual pride. It's not too much to ask a group to work for 60 minutes.
“We might not have the skill, we may not have the quality of team that our opponent has … but we have a lot more in us than we showed, so it's pretty disappointing.”
The projected lineup, based on Wednesday:
Gabriel Landeskog -- Tyson Jost -- Mikko Rantanen
Andre Burakovsky -- Nazem Kadri -- Joonas Donskoi
Alex Newhook -- Valeri Nichushkin -- J.T. Compher
Kiefer Sherwood -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Jayson Megna
Devon Toews -- Cale Makar
Ryan Graves -- Samuel Girard
Patrik Nemeth -- Conor Timmins