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Avalanche seek to end four-game skid vs. red-hot Blues

Apr 24, 2022; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Colorado Avalanche center Nico Sturm (78) is tangled up by Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey (44) in front of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) in the third period at Canada Life Centre. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

A week ago the Colorado Avalanche were riding a nine-game winning streak and looking at reaching 60 wins and another President’s Trophy. Now they’re just hoping to find something positive heading into the final three games of the regular season.

Colorado (55-18-6, 116 points) has secured the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, but since clinching home ice through the first three rounds things have gone in the wrong direction. The Avalanche can turn things around when they host the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night.

St. Louis (49-20-11, 109 points) is in a battle with Minnesota for second place in the Central Division and home-ice advantage in the first-round series between the teams. The Blues have won three straight, are 14-0-2 since March 26 and are peaking at the right time.

It is a similar situation to 2019 when St. Louis went from one of the worst teams in January to Stanley Cup champions five months later. The Blues need some help to overcome the Wild in the standings; Minnesota also has 109 points and has played one fewer game.

Starting the postseason on the road or at home might not matter with how the top line for St. Louis is playing. The trio of Robert Thomas, Pavel Buchnevich and Vladimir Tarasenko has combined for 30 goals and 49 assists during the team’s 16-game point streak.

“To see them consistently playing together, it’s no secret what they’re doing,” teammate Torey Krug said. “And it’s very hard to defend. You have (Tarasenko) in there; he can score with the best of them in the NHL.

“It’s a scary line. … They can beat you so many different ways. Robert is an unbelievable skater. Gifted with his vision, his passing ability.”

Colorado also has some scary combinations for teams to stop, but lately it has been injuries, scheduled rest and a little complacency that has contributed to a season-high four-game losing streak. The Avalanche haven’t had their whole optimal lineup all season and coach Jared Bednar has opted to sit some players for rest or to heal up nagging injuries.

Leading scorer Mikko Rantanen didn’t play on the road trip due to a non-COVID illness and Devon Toews, half of the top defensive pairing, stayed home for the three games.

While the losses don’t impact the seeding, Bednar wasn’t happy after Sunday night’s 4-1 loss at Winnipeg and wants the team to get back to what made it successful for the first 75 games.

“Our work is cut out for us here to get our guys back to playing our game, getting back to our identity,” Bednar said. “Starts with the work, the competitiveness. Moves on to execution, details, the whole gamut — we’ve seen it all (go away) over the last four games.”

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog may get into one or more of the final three games. He had knee surgery five weeks ago and has not played since March 10. He has been skating but has not been cleared to play as of yet.

–Field Level Media