April 6 2010, 10:06 AM
After hovering around the top of the Northwest Division for most of the year, the Colorado Avalanche has just four games left to qualify for a playoff spot. The young team has stumbled down the stretch---going 3-6-1 in the last 10 games (via NHL.com)---but four points in the last four games will get them the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They have the first chance to do that tonight in Vancouver against the Canucks, a team that has owned the Avs this season by winning four of five games, the last four by a combined score of 22-8, points out The Denver Post. The Avs will have to finish the last four games without Peter Mueller, the team's leading scorer since he arrived in Denver through a trade with the Phoenix Coyotes March 3. Mueller suffered a concussion during Sunday's 5-4 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks. He was checked head-first into the corner boards by former star Avalanche defenseman Rob Blake, a hit Avs coach Joe Sacco says should be reviewed by the NHL for legality. Mueller's concussion will keep him out "indefinitely," according to the Post's Adrian Dater (via his Twitter feed). Since the Canucks have already claimed the division crown, maybe they won't go all out tonight. At least, that's what Mile High Hockey is hoping for, and the hockey Web site also notes that a win tonight along with a loss by the ninth-place Calgary Flames will clench the Avs' ticket to the playoffs. Meanwhile, with just four games left in the season, rookie sensation Matt Duchene leads all NHL rookies in goals scored (23) and total points (54) (via NHL.com). The New York Islanders' John Tavares is five points and just one goal back, so the race will be close as the week winds down.