Focused on first place, Avalanche open two-game set vs. Kings

NHL Hockey

The Colorado Avalanche can finish first in the West Division by winning their final two games of the regular season against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Avalanche can take the first step on Wednesday night when they play the opener of back-to-back games against the Kings in Denver.

Colorado (37-13-4, 78 points) put itself in position to take the top spot in the West by beating the Vegas Golden Knights 2-1 on Monday night in Las Vegas. The win pulled Colorado within two points of first-place Vegas, which plays its regular-season finale on Wednesday at the San Jose Sharks.

The Avalanche could also fall to third if they lose their final two games in regulation and the Minnesota Wild win their final two games.

“Next game is going to be the most important one,” Colorado goalie Philipp Grubauer said. “Obviously, great job (Monday) night, but it doesn’t matter if we don’t win the next one.”

The Kings (21-26-7, 49 points) haven’t been putting up much of a fight lately.

Los Angeles has lost its past three games, including back-to-back 3-2 losses to the visiting Avalanche last weekend. The Kings haven’t defeated a playoff-bound team since knocking off the Golden Knights 4-2 on March 31, going 0-5-1 against the top four in the West since then.

The closest the Kings came to beating a playoff-bound team in the past six weeks was a 2-1 overtime loss to the visiting St. Louis Blues on Monday.

Following the narrow defeat, Kings coach Todd McLellan said some of his players got “cute” with their playmaking against the Blues and veered away from their simple style of play.

“When we play direct, when we play north-south, when we play to the paint, we have a better chance of winning,” McLellan said. “When we play east-west, when we play through the slot, one side of the rink to the other — I don’t think it favors our team. We’re still trying to figure that out. Eventually, we’ll get it.”

McLellan said he will continue to keep a close eye on his younger players, and he’ll likely send them over the wall plenty in the final two games.

Los Angeles featured a lineup on Monday night with just two players over the age of 27, forward Anze Kopitar and defenseman Drew Doughty, and eight players 23 or younger.

“Our younger players that have been in the league now for a year or two must show improvement,” McLellan said. “They have to begin to carry more of the load, offensively, defensively, game management. It’s a must that they graduate and move on to the next level, break through. That’ll be a big challenge for us as a team.”

Colorado is expected to add some veterans to its lineup over the final two games.

Samuel Girard has been out since April 30 with an undisclosed injury, and Brandon Saad has been sidelined since April 24 with a lower-body injury. Both players have been skating in Denver while the Avalanche completed their five-game road trip.

Colorado doesn’t want to take anything for granted against the Kings.

“L.A., they have nothing to lose,” Grubauer said. “We have to find a way to play our game again.”

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Now Trending on KRQE.com

Statewide Hourly Forecasts ⟶

Albuquerque Hourly Forecast

Don't Miss

MORE IN DON'T MISS

Photo Galleries

MORE PHOTO GALLERIES

News Resources - Maps

MORE NEWS RESOURCES