Avalanche Face a Tough Two-Week Stretch Leading Up to the All-Star Game

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Calvin Pickard
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 6: Colorado Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard (31) and Gabriel Landeskog (92) celebrate during overtime at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on October 6, 2017. The Avalanche won 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

As the Colorado Avalanche wrap up their five-day bye week, head coach Jared Bednar and the Colorado Avalanche face a tough two-week stretch leading up the the All-Star Game in Los Angeles. After an exciting win over the New York Islanders in overtime last Friday night, the Avs will host the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night to kick off a two-week span of hockey before the All-Star break that will see them play seven games, many of them against some of the league’s top teams. Let’s take a closer look.

Tough Schedule

The next two weeks will be a huge test for the Avalanche, as five of their next seven games are against teams who currently hold a playoff spot. The Avs will start off the fortnight of tough matchups with a three-game home stretch where they’ll host the Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators, and the high-flying Chicago Blackhawks at the Pepsi Center.

The Ducks have won four out of their last five games, and will be hoping to continue that momentum when they swoop into Denver. The Chicago Blackhawks are perched atop the Western Conference standings, having won their last four games. Colorado’s last victory over the Blackhawks came in the last game of the 2014-2015 season when Jarome Iginla netted two goals to lead the Avalanche to a 3-2 victory at the United Center in Chicago.

The Nashville Predators should prove to be the easiest opponent out of the three, having failed to beat a team in 2017 who holds a playoff spot. Nashville won the last meeting between these two teams in early December when they defeated the Avalanche 4-3 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

Next Thursday the Avs will travel to the Honda Center in Anaheim to take on the Ducks before heading up north to face the San Jose Sharks. The Ducks are 14-5-2 at home this year and haven’t lost by more than one goal at home since they fell 5-1 to the Penguins on November 2nd.

Avalanche defenseman Francois Beauchemin spent parts of nine seasons with the Anaheim franchise, and will hoping to turn it up a notch offensively after recording 38 points in 82 games for the Avs last season, and only 8 points in 38 games so far this season. The Sharks have gone 14-5-1 at home this season and will be hoping to continue that success against the Avalanche.

Interestingly enough, the Avs have played better on the road this year, going 8-12 on the season, so they will be hoping to come home with a victory or two on their short West Coast trip. Recent waiver pick-up Matthew Nieto will return to his old stomping grounds to face the team he was picked up from last week. The 24-year old from Long Beach, California has struggled this season, recording only two assists in 16 games.

Before the Avalanche get a few days off for the All-Star break, they’ll host the Sharks on January 23rd and the Vancouver Canucks two nights later. San Jose is 11-10-1 away from home this season so the Avalanche will be hoping to pounce on the opportunity to beat one of the league’s best teams. The Canucks will come to Denver on the 25th and hope to keep on pace in the Western Conference playoff race. The boys from Vancouver have found new life lately, having won six of their last eight games to propel them to a tie with Los Angeles for the last wild-card spot. Colorado’s last win over the Canucks at home came in March of 2014 when Tyson Barrie scored the overtime winner to lift the Avalanche to a 3-2 victory.

Trade Rumours

With the Avalanche deep in the basement of the NHL standings, General Manager Joe Sakic and the front office will no doubt be exploring trade opportunities. There have been rumours floating around the hockey world that Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene could be some of the bigger names at risk of being shipped out of the Mile-High City. When there are trade rumours involving your captain and your top goal scorer, team morale in the dressing room will no doubt take a hit. The next two weeks will be a very important time for the Avalanche front office, who will need to think about the future and evaluate their current assets.

The Avalanche will hopefully be able to find some success over the next two weeks as they look to climb out of the cellar of the NHL standings. Avs scoring leader Nathan MacKinnon will represent the Avalanche at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles on January 29th at the Staples Center, and his inclusion in the event will hopefully bring some motivation to the Avalanche dressing room as they hope to turn the ship around.

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