After regrouping Friday, the Colorado Avalanche are ready to make a charge toward the top spot in the West Division.
The Avalanche (35-13-4, 74 points) are four points behind the first-place Vegas Golden Knights with four regular-season games remaining. Colorado defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Friday, while the Golden Knights defeated the St. Louis Blues 4-3 in overtime.
The Blues qualified for the playoffs with the point they earned against Vegas and officially eliminated the Kings.
The Avalanche and Kings will go back at it on Saturday night in Los Angeles as the teams play the second of four games against each other in a span of seven days. The teams close their regular seasons with meetings on Wednesday and Thursday. Both games will be in Denver.
After a 3-2 defeat to the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday, Avalanche coach Jared Bednar was looking for better checking and an improvement from the team’s top defensive line, which gave up both goals. He got more of what he was looking for Friday against Los Angeles.
“Our puck decisions sort of come with our skating and our puck support,” Bednar said. “If we have good puck support, and we are skating onto pucks, we tend to make better decisions. … Cleaning those two areas up for me is really important, because that’s when we tend to give up the scoring chances that we don’t like on turnovers or versus the rush.”
While Colorado is facing sixth-place Los Angeles on Saturday, Vegas will play the fourth-place Blues again. That would suggest a slight advantage to the Avalanche. Then comes Monday’s showdown between the Avalanche and Golden Knights in Vegas that will go a long way toward deciding the division winner.
Colorado’s game on Saturday will represent the Avs’ last chance to gain momentum for Monday’s key matchup.
“I don’t think we were playing our best, and we are getting close to playoffs,” Avalanche right wing Joonas Donskoi said. “We want to get our legs going, we want to get back to playing our best hockey.”
The Kings (21-25-6, 48 points) held on as long as they could before they were officially eliminated from playoff consideration Friday. The late run of four games against the Avalanche will serve as the closest thing to the playoffs the Kings will get.
Kings rookie center Quinton Byfield got a taste Friday of a team getting itself playoff ready. The 18-year-old and No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft played 14 minutes in his sixth career game and was one contest removed from his first career point, an assist Wednesday at Arizona.
“One of the most impressive things about (Byfield) is the questions he’s asked and how he’s been able to adapt,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “I think that’s a real positive sign. I think this is the type of player, without putting undue pressure on him, who can get better fast because he wants to, he asks real good questions and puts them into play.”
The Kings will be without Dustin Brown for the remainder of the season. Brown has been playing with an upper-body injury, and the Kings no longer will ask him to play through the discomfort.
–Field Level Media