NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, April 1st (All times Eastern)
Colorado Avalanche (47-21-6) at Columbus Blue Jackets (38-30-6), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Matt Duchene was one of the key reasons that the Colorado Avalanche were able to end a three-year playoff drought, but a knee injury will keep him out for at least the rest of the regular season.
The Avs will try to extend their lead for second place in the Central Division without the star center as they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
Colorado picked up a third straight victory on Saturday with a 3-2 decision over the San Jose Sharks. That sealed up the Avalanche's first playoff bid since 2010, ending the longest postseason drought for the franchise since it moved to Denver.
Goals by John Mitchell, Paul Stastny and Cody McLeod, as well as a season-high 47 saves from Semyon Varlamov, all helped Colorado reach the 100-point mark for the first time since 2003-04. That put the Avalanche a point ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for second place in the division.
"I thought I played well today. We're excited and have been waiting for this moment for a long time," Varlamov said. "I played in the playoffs a long time ago (2011 in Washington). It's totally different here and I'm sure it will be fun."
Colorado has two games in hand over Chicago, which is idle on Tuesday, but lost Duchene to a left knee ailment early in the first period after he collided with teammate Jamie McGinn. He is expected to miss about four weeks with the injury, sidelining him for the rest of the regular season and likely the first round of the upcoming playoffs.
Duchene has 23 goals on the season to go along with team highs of 47 assists and 70 points.
The Blue Jackets will try to take advantage tonight as they chase just their second postseason berth in club history. Columbus is currently holding the second of two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference with 82 points, one ahead of the Washington Capitals and two up on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
However, Columbus has a game in hand over Washington and has played two fewer games than Toronto.
The Blue Jackets had lost three of four before notching a 3-2 overtime victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. Ryan Johansen's team-leading 30th goal of the season gave Columbus the victory.
Johansen got a wrist shot through Anton Khudobin from the slot just 46 seconds after Jiri Tlusty went off for covering the puck with his hand in the Carolina zone.
Matt Calvert and Artem Anisimov also scored for the Blue Jackets, who rallied from one-goal deficits twice. Curtis McElhinney made 25 saves in his second straight start while Sergei Bobrovsky continued his recovery from the flu.
"We didn't start the game great, (but) McElhinney was great in the first five, six, seven minutes of the game," said Columbus coach Todd Richards. "I think once we settled in, we were a little better. Some of the things that happened in the game were self-inflicted and I attribute a lot of that to fatigue and not making the right plays."
While Bobrovsky is expected to return tonight, forward Nathan Horton will not play due to a lower-body injury and it is unknown how long he will be sidelined.
Horton, signed to a big contract this past offseason, has four goals and 13 assists in 34 games this season.
The Blue Jackets had won four of five versus the Avalanche before a 5-3 setback in Colorado on Dec. 31.
Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon both scored in the third period for the Avs and Varlamov made 35 saves, while Johansen was one of three goal scorers for the Blue Jackets.
McElhinney allowed all five goals on 23 shots for Columbus, which has lost five of its past seven at home versus Colorado.
04/01 10:56:44 ET