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HomeSportsHockeyNHL News: Little on line as Avs, Oilers close regular season

NHL News: Little on line as Avs, Oilers close regular season

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The final day of the NHL regular season won’t mean anything for first-round matchups, but it could have an impact on what happens later in the playoffs.

The Colorado Avalanche host the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night as both teams get ready for the postseason.

Colorado (49-25-7, 105 points), which is stumbling down the stretch, is locked into third place in the Central Division and will start the playoffs at Winnipeg. Edmonton (49-26-6, 104 points), assured of second place in the Pacific Division, is set to host Game 1 against either the Vegas Golden Knights or the Los Angeles Kings.

The only thing on the line in the Thursday game is which team would be the higher seed if they meet in the Western Conference finals. Edmonton recalled two forwards from AHL Bakersfield, Adam Erne and Sam Gagner, on Wednesday, and they likely will play in the regular-season finale.

Colorado has lost two in a row and is 3-5-2 in the past 10. The Avalanche have earned only three wins over playoff-bound teams since the start of March and have faltered in big matchups.

The Avalanche lost home games to the Dallas Stars, 7-4 on April 7, and the Jets, 7-0 on Saturday, as they have been unable to build momentum going into the postseason. Winnipeg has won seven straight, and it swept the three-game season series from Colorado.

“We got a taste of what it’s going to be like going against them in the playoffs,” Avalanche forward Andrew Cogliano said. “From a lot of different angles, it wasn’t good enough.”

One thing the Avalanche do know is captain Gabriel Landeskog won’t be back anytime soon. Landeskog has not played since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2022, and he had cartilage replacement surgery in his right knee last summer.

He has been skating, but coach Jared Bednar said he is not close to playing.

The Oilers will be playing the second of back-to-back games after falling 5-2 to the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday in Tempe, Ariz. The contest was almost certainly the hosts’ farewell to the Phoenix area before an expected move to Salt Lake City.

Edmonton star Connor McDavid participated in his second game back after missing three in a row due to a lower-body injury. He had one helper against the San Jose Sharks on Monday night to become the fourth player in NHL history to log 100 assists in one season.

Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov became the fifth player with 100 assists in a season when he reached the milestone on Wednesday. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr were the other three players to accomplish the feat.

“It means a lot,” McDavid said. “(Gretzky, Lemieux and Orr) are obviously three of the greatest players to ever play. To share a little something with them, it means a lot to me.”

Winning the Stanley Cup would mean more for McDavid and Edmonton. The Oilers came close two years ago, reaching the Western Conference finals before being swept by Colorado. Early this season it looked as if they would struggle to reach the postseason, but a coaching change turned things around.

Edmonton is 46-17-5 since Kris Knoblauch replaced Jay Woodcroft on Nov. 12.

“It has been a different type of year, but everybody stuck with it and we’ve put ourselves in a good spot heading in to when it matters most,” McDavid said.

–Field Level Media

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