NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
The Avalanche are in the middle of a street fight with the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference on the line. They currently own that last playoff spot, but the competition is fierce, and it includes the Arizona Coyotes and Minnesota Wild (for now).
As if a steamy playoff race wasn’t enough, the Avs have had to play without two of their top three forwards, as Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen have been missed time due to injury. Landeskog has been out since Mar. 9 because of an upper-body injury, while Rantanen has missed the last two games with an undisclosed ailment.
Neither player will be able to suit up tonight.
Without Rantanen, they’ve gone 1-0-1. Without Landeskog, they’ve found a way to go 6-1-1. That’s incredible when you consider both are point-per-game players for their team.
“Mikko’s one of the best wingers in the NHL and Gabe is one of the best two-way players in the NHL,” said Nathan MacKinnon. “So, you know, you lose two guys like, it’s going to hurt your team. We’ve weathered the storm since those guys have been hurt and we have a tough schedule coming up. It’s going to be tough.”
MacKinnon is right. The Avs’ upcoming schedule won’t be easy. They take on the Golden Knights tonight and the Coyotes on Friday night. They’ll have to also face St. Louis, Edmonton, Winnipeg and San Jose. The good news, is that four of those six games will be played on home ice. The bad news, is that four of those teams are in a playoff spot and one of the (Arizona) is right on their tail.
If they’re going to push through, they’ll need MacKinnon to keep producing and they’ll need goaltender Philipp Grubauer to continue being a steady presence between the pipes (PHT’s Adam Gretz wrote about that here).
“Everyone is happy for him,” forward Carl Soderberg said of Grubauer. I think our goaltending has been really good of late, (Semyon Varlamov) too. It’s nice to see because of the hard stretch we had there in January. We’ve seen him work hard in practice, battle back and now he’s getting the results.”
Grubauer has gone 4-0-1 in his last five starts and he’s held the opposition to two goals or fewer in each of his last 10 appearances.
The Avalanche still have their work cut out for them, but the odds are on their side. Heading into tonight’s action, they have a 61.8 percent chance of making it into the playoffs.
Gord Miller (play-by-play) and Emmy Award-winner Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo.