NHL on NBCSN: Hot Avs challenge Kings in battle between desperate squads

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

The Colorado Avalanche’s hopes of making the playoffs are all-but dead, although that’s been true for a while now and they’ve been doing an impressive job of fighting with their backs against the wall. They have won eight of their last 11 games, but one of their few defeats over that span has been at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings.

When the two squads played for the first time this season on March 18, the Kings were in the midst of what became an eight-game winning streak. By the end, the Kings were occupying a playoff spot by the narrowest of margins. They’ve slipped since that run though, to the point where the defending Stanley Cup champions would, like the 2013-14 Central Division winners, be booking tee times if the regular season ended today.

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Los Angeles is only two points shy of third place in the Pacific Division going into tonight’s action, so its situation isn’t as dire as Colorado’s, which is seven points shy of a playoff spot with 16 contests left. However, at this late stage of the season every loss is amplified.

The Kings need to step up before its too late, which is something they excelled at during the 2014 playoffs, but it remains to be seen whether they can replicate that success. With all that’s at stake, they’ve only won two of their last six games, with one of those victories coming against the 29th place Edmonton Oilers and the other being the byproduct of a shootout.

“We’ve got some guys who have slipped again,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter noted to LA Kings Insider.

Colorado has already shown what its capable of this season under dire circumstances, but it can’t afford to let up now. Even after going 8-3-0, the Avalanche need to earn a 12-3-1 record for the rest of the campaign just to have a better than even chance of advancing to the postseason, per Sports Club Stats. In other words, as good as the Avalanche have been recently, they need to be even better going forward.

Given the slim margin for error and the fact that these squads will also play against each other on April 4, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to say that Colorado’s improbable road to the playoffs has to run through the Kings.