NHL on NBCSN: Avs try to build off hot streak, challenge Red Wings

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Colorado Avalanche host the Detroit Red Wings at Pepsi Center at 9:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

You don’t need to look any further than Colorado’s 22-18-11 record to know that this season has been a disappointment for the defending Central Division titleholders. The fact that their struggles are adding fuel to the analytics-driven argument that the Avalanche overperformed last season has to be particularly stringing given that they haven’t been regarded as the biggest fans of fancy stats.

The Avalanche haven’t lost hope though, nor should they after their dramatic 11-round shootout win in a key game against Dallas on Tuesday.

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“That’s the way we were last year. I hate to bring last year back, but this is something we were doing really well,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy told the team’s website. “We never gave up, and we were very resilient. I think that’s what we did tonight.”

The Avalanche have now earned at least a point in four straight contests to put them just four points behind in the battle for a Wild Card spot. If they can stay sharp, then there’s more than enough time left to close that relatively small gap.

They have plenty of serious tests ahead of them though and the first will be against Detroit tonight. Even with starting goaltender Jimmy Howard and backup Jonas Gustavsson being simultaneously unavailable for roughly a month, Detroit has been one of the hottest teams in the league with a 8-2-0 record since Howard’s last game. That’s propelled the Red Wings into a tight race for the Eastern Conference lead.

Detroit is only getting more dangerous too as Gustavsson rejoined the team on Wednesday and Howard might be back within a week. At this point, the Red Wings have to be seen as the favorites going into tonight’s game; a reversal from the situation a year ago.

Speaking of last year, the Red Wings know a thing or two about being a team trying to stage a comeback after an underwhelming first half of the season and how dangerous that kind of squad can be. They realize the Avalanche can’t be overlooked.