ST. PAUL, Minn. — The NHL grind will ease up for the Avalanche in the finishing stretch. Colorado plays 16 of its final 28 regular-season games at home, including Saturday at the Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium.
The thing is, the Avs need to rediscover their home-ice dominance and, oddly, play as well as they have outside of Denver. The Avs are 14-7-4 at home compared to an impressive 18-9-2 on the road. They have the league’s second-most road wins behind Washington, which has 20.
“We’re happy with the way we’re playing right now,” Avs captain Gabe Landeskog said from the victorious locker room at the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday evening. “Now we have to convert this, (take) the way we’ve been playing on the road to home ice.”
Colorado took Monday off. It begins a five-game homestand Tuesday against the downtrodden Ottawa Senators, whom they defeated 4-1 on Thursday in Canada. The Sens have won just six road games, second-fewest behind Detroit (five).
Chasing the Blues
St. Louis’s hold on the Central Division and Western Conference lead is loosening. The Avs are just three points behind the Blues, with two games in hand. Colorado (32-16-6) is 2-0 against St. Louis (32-15-9) since the Blues won the first two games. The home team has won each game.
The series finale is on the last day of the regular season — April 4 at the Pepsi Center. So there could be an effective playoff game before the postseason begins, if the Avs and Blues remain neck and neck.
The Central Division champion will open the playoffs against one of the two Western Conference wild-card teams and has home-ice advantage through the conference finals. The Central’s runner-up will open the playoffs against the division’s third-place team.
Make no mistake: The Avs would rather win the division and avoid opening the playoffs against the Dallas Stars and goalie Ben Bishop.
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The Avs have collected points in nine of their past 10 games (7-1-2) and believe they should have been 10-for-10. They fell 6-3 at Philadelphia on Feb. 1 to begin their five-game road trip.
“After the first one, we said, ‘We’re OK losing playing like that. We’re OK with that,’” center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. “If we were playing like that, we know we’re going to win more than we lose. And down the road in the trip, it showed itself. We ended up winning four out of five, and overall I feel like we played good in every game.”
“It’s easy to say now, but looking back at that Philly game, that was a game we felt like we outplayed them for most of the game and just gave away some easy goals. We’ll take 4-1 on this road trip, no doubt, especially (Sunday) against a division opponent,” he said, referring to Minnesota.
Footnote. The Avs will have an update on second-line center Nazem Kadri at Tuesday’s morning skate. Kadri left early in the third period Sunday with a lower-body injury and did not return.
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