AVALANCHE IS STUCK IN SEVENTH

By JAKE SCHALLER THE GAZETTE Updated: April 18, 2006 at 12:00 am • Published: April 18, 2006
EDMONTON, Alberta - Dallas it is. The Colorado Avalanche lost its regular season finale, 4-2, at Edmonton Monday night, guaranteeing a seventh-place finish in the Western Conference and a first-round series with the Stars that likely will start Friday in Dallas.
So now that Colorado’s players can look forward to the playoffs and focus on a specific opponent, they can leave a dismal finish to the regular season in the rearview mirror. Or so they say. Monday night’s loss was Colorado’s third in a row and 10th in its last 16, including shootout and overtime losses. But when asked if that would effect how Colorado will play in the postseason, Avalanche de- fenseman Rob Blake said, “No, not at all. “We’ll have a great week and prepare for Dallas.” “Our team, we worked hard down the stretch,” Joe Sakic added. “A lot of guys were out, and we found a way to get in (the playoffs), and that’s the most important thing. And now it’s round one, and this is when you’re judged.” Colorado (43-30-9) was supposed to be the team with something to play for on Monday night in front of an announced sellout crowd of 16,839 at Rexall Place. While Edmonton was locked into eighth place in the Western Conference, the seventh-place Avalanche could have leap-frogged Anaheim and finished in sixth place with a victory and a loss by the Mighty Ducks. But there was not much reward for finishing sixth as opposed to seventh. Instead of facing Dallas, Colorado would have faced Northwest Division champion Calgary, and the Flames took five of their eight meetings with the Avalanche this year, including all four at the Pengrowth Saddledome. So while the Oilers did not play seven of their starters — including four of their top five scorers and their starting goalie — the Avalanche, concerned about injuries, also cut back most of its top players’ ice time. Sakic, for example, played just 14:01, nearly six minutes less than usual. And Blake, who did not play in the third period, compiled just 10:15, more than 14 minutes less than his average. “It was a weird situation,” forward Alex Tanguay said. “We would have liked to play a little better and get (to the playoffs) with some momentum, but sometimes it’s tough to get yourself motivated. We’re just looking to (the playoffs) right now.” Colorado took just 12 shots to Edmonton’s 22 in the first two periods, but it began the third tied with the Oilers thanks to a goal by Sakic in the second. The Avalanche tied the game at 2-2 mid-way through the third, but Edmonton scored short-handed with 5:14 left and later added an empty-net goal. Goalie Jose Theodore, who is 1-3-1 with Colorado, allowed three goals on 35 shots. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0365 or jake.schaller@gazette.com SEEING STARS SEASON SERIES Stars won 3-1 Oct. 8: Avalanche 3 at Stars 2 Nov. 5: Stars 3 at Avalanche 2 (OT) Jan. 26: Stars 3 at Avalanche 2 (OT) March 4: at Stars 5, Avalanche 3 Dallas finishes its season tonight at Columbus.
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