‘Win now’ Avalanche visit fourth-place Blues

NHL Hockey

The Colorado Avalanche carried a “win now” mentality right up to the NHL trade deadline, and the moves they made toward adding depth to their roster has them building for the playoffs.

Next up for the West Division leaders is a Wednesday night visit to the St. Louis Blues.

“We believe in our group. We believe in the players that we have,” Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said Monday after adding more depth before the NHL trade deadline. “Their expectations are to win, and our one goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and that’s what we’re going for.”

Sakic reacquired center Carl Soderberg from the Chicago Blackhawks and defenseman Patrik Nemeth from the Detroit Red Wings. He also added goaltending insurance by acquiring Devan Dubnyk in a trade with the San Jose Sharks.

“This is as deep a team as we’re going to have here, where we can have four lines who are really deep,” Sakic said. “We’re going to have to get cheaper starting next year at some of those positions. We love the way the team is coming together, love the way they’re playing.

“Management, fans and everybody in the dressing room believes this is a time we need to compete for the Stanley Cup.”

The West Division-leading Avalanche have won eight of their last nine games while gunning for a top playoff seed.

Meanwhile the fourth-place Blues are just trying to make the postseason bracket after struggling for much of the season. Their current three-game winning streak convinced general manager Doug Armstrong not to sell off players before the trade deadline.

“Maybe we’re gonna get healthy at the right time, and get on a roll,” Armstrong said. “And maybe the last three games are an indication of that.”

But the Blues’ schedule is loaded with showdowns against the Avalanche (four games), the second-place Vegas Golden Knights (two) and the third-place Minnesota Wild (five), making for quite a gauntlet in the last month of the regular season. That means 11 of their remaining 15 games are against teams currently bound for the playoffs, and one against the Arizona Coyotes, who are one point behind them.

Goaltenders Jordan Binnington (12-11-5, 2.65 goals-against average) and Ville Husso (7-5-1, 3.43 GAA) both won games with strong performances during the team’s streak.

The Blues offense finally broke out during 9-1 victory over the Wild last Friday. Forward Jaden Schwartz scored twice in that game to match his goal total for the previous 24 games.

Winger Mike Hoffman scored twice Saturday in a 3-2 victory over the Wild after sitting out the previous two games as a healthy scratch. Now with 11 goals on the season, he had been the subject of trade rumors ahead of the deadline.

“I think the goal scoring should continue to pick up, and both goaltenders have played great the last two games,” Armstrong said. “But we’re going to need everyone to push through here these last three or four weeks of the regular season to get into the playoffs, and then when you get in, anything can happen.

“But there’s no guarantee that we’re going to get in, and we’re going to have to play and focus every day like it’s a life-or-death situation.”

The Avalanche won have three of four games against the Blues this season while building a 14-7 scoring margin. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer (25-8-1, 2.00 GAA) is 2-1 with a 1.68 GAA against them this season.

–Field Level Media

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