The Colorado Avalanche long have been a safe bet to represent the Western Conference as the No. 1 seed for the upcoming playoffs.
They just need to get healthy and avoid more untimely injuries.
Colorado will continue tuning up for the postseason when it hosts the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night in Denver.
The Avalanche (52-14-6, 110 points) can set a franchise record for wins if they can defeat the Kings for a third time this season, but Colorado still has more important things on its mind.
Namely, the return of team captain Gabriel Landeskog, who has been out since March 10 because of knee surgery. He still has yet to return to the ice.
Colorado coach Jared Bednar remains optimistic that the nine-time 20-goal scorer will return in time for the playoffs.
“That’s the goal,” Bednar said after practice on Monday.
Colorado also will be without Nazem Kadri, who has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury. Kadri is second on the team with 83 points (26 goals, 57 assists).
Samuel Girard returned against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday after missing a month with a lower-body injury. Fellow defenseman Ryan Murray, however, missed his ninth straight game since blocking a shot with his arm against Edmonton on March 21.
Kadri and Murray did not participate during the main practice on Monday. The Avalanche had the day off on Tuesday.
“They’ve both been skating for a little while now,” Bednar said of Kadri and Murray. “Pushing towards a return.”
Colorado still managed a 2-1 shootout victory against the Oilers for its sixth straight win.
The Kings (39-26-10, 88 points) are in a much different position from the Avalanche while also missing one of their best players in veteran defenseman Drew Doughty (wrist surgery).
Los Angeles crept within two points of the second-place Oilers in the Pacific Division with a 5-2 win at the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.
Edmonton lost its second straight game, 5-1, against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.
The win by Los Angeles ended a three-game losing streak and displayed the style of play that lifted the Kings into a playoff position.
“We were hard on the forecheck, we broke out pretty clean,” Kings forward Trevor Moore said. “Did the little things that we wanted to do, and we’re better defensively.”
After facing the Avalanche, the next six games for Los Angeles are against opponents outside of playoff contention.
“Just going to try and recover, hydrate, all that good stuff,” Moore said of the difficult back-to-back road games. “We’re at altitude, so it’s real important.”
Moore has found good chemistry with linemates Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson, who teamed up to help the Kings take a 2-0 lead against the Blackhawks.
“We talked about wanting to spread it out a little bit more in the O-zone,” Moore said. “I thought we did that on the first two goals.”
The Avalanche won 52 games in two other seasons. They accomplished the feat in 2000-01, when they went on to win their second Stanley Cup title, and in 2013-14, when they were eliminated in the first round.
–Field Level Media