Category archive: Colorado Avalanche

Nine games in the NHL on Tuesday night, but here are two that really grab my attention: Vancouver at Colorado and Calgary at Detroit.

We've got two Western Conference tilts with playoff implications. I love this time of year.

In Detroit, the Red Wings are coming off huge wins over two Central Division foes, the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks, and are hanging on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the West by one point ahead of the Flames.

"We just won four out of five," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told ESPN.com on Monday. "And now, let's be honest, we need to win four out of five again."

Another stretch of games like that and the Wings will leave the eighth spot behind them.

"Nashville came in [Friday]; if they beat us they were going to be seven points up," Babcock said. "I looked today and they were one point up, so suddenly they're in the mix with us. Our job is to get as many teams in the mix ahead of us as much as we can."

After playing more of the season with a lineup absolutely devastated by injuries, with Babcock doing some of the best coaching of his career, now the veteran Wings are healthy and ready for a run. If I were the Coyotes, Kings, Avalanche and Predators, I'd be looking in my rearview mirror.

"We're trying to reel them in, that's what we're trying to do," Babcock said. "In saying all that, are we the team that just won four out of five, or are we the team that was winning one and losing one? I'm not trying to be hard on us one bit, we've been hurt all year long, but our lineup is good enough to play hard every night now."

This is new territory for the Wings. During the past decade, March usually means finding a way to stay focused and not getting too bored with a big lead in their division as they await the playoffs in April. This season, every game in the stretch run will have meaning.

"You're under the gun way more," Babcock said. "And yet what I'd say to you is that I believe in our experience, I believe in us knowing how to play, I believe in the level we can get our game to -- we should be fine. But you and I are both going to watch and find out."

Who's kidding whom? The Wings are going to make the playoffs, and it's likely not going to be as the last seed.

Only two points separate the second-place Colorado Avalanche from the first-place Vancouver Canucks atop the Northwest Division, and we all know how important that division title is with a guaranteed No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

For the Avs, a loss in regulation would drop them four back of the Canucks with road-weary Vancouver getting to play 10 of its final 15 games at GM Place. It won't be easy to make up points on the Canucks late in the season, although the two clubs play again on April 6 at Vancouver.

I think this is also a statement game of sorts for the baby-face Avs of Chris Stewart, Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly. Most people right now are handing this division to Vancouver despite such a close race with Colorado. Five months after a surprise start to the season, the youthful Avs still aren't getting genuine respect by everyone around the league. I think Tuesday's game is very meaningful from that standpoint alone.

Drop the puck!