The Colorado Avalanche would rather forget their last trip to Dallas three weeks ago. Stars forward Alexander Radulov had a hat trick, Ben Bishop shut them out and they left town having lost their captain for the rest of the regular season.
That 4-0 loss on March 7 also hurt Colorado's playoff drive, but heading into Thursday's matchup in Dallas the Avalanche have a renewed optimism. They are coming off two wins, including a 3-1 victory in Minnesota that closed the gap in the Western Conference wild-card race.
Colorado (32-29-12, 76 points) is two points behind Arizona for the second wild card and can help itself by beating the streaking Stars. Dallas (38-29-6, 82 points) has gone 7-2-1 in its last 10 games and is only two points behind St. Louis for third place in the Central Division.
With nine games left for both teams the stakes are increasingly higher, and health is always a concern. While the Avalanche won't have third-leading scorer Gabriel Landeskog out there due to an upper-body injury suffered against Dallas, the Stars got Bishop back in their 4-2 win against Florida on Tuesday night.
Bishop had missed the two previous games with a lower-body injury after leaving a win over Minnesota on March 14. He told the Dallas Morning News he was hurt late in the first period of that game, gave it a go in the second but ultimately took himself out for precautionary reasons.
"You've got to think more big picture than that particular instance," Bishop said. "It's something that was lingering there. You don't want to end up making it way worse and missing two, three weeks. You'd rather get out of there, take care of it and make it short-term instead of obviously taking the risk of the bigger picture, which is more important."
Colorado wouldn't mind if he took Thursday off after his 31-save shutout in the teams' last meeting. The Avalanche have been shut out twice in the last six games but are now riding a two-game winning streak. Philipp Grubauer has seemingly taken the reigns as the No. 1 goaltender, although coach Jared Bednar never reveals his starting goalie until game day.
Bednar said the team needs to sustain the intensity shown against Minnesota.
"That's the type of consistency in our game from start to finish that we're looking for that you need this time of year to win games," he said after the win over the Wild. "If we can repeat that performance another nine times, then I believe we're going to be great. It's hard to do, though. We've been trying to repeat that performance all year and we've been a little up and down, so we've got to remember the feeling."
--Field Level Media
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