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Klee: Avalanche must seize low point in Colorado sports

By: Paul Klee
March 23, 2016 Updated: March 24, 2016 at 1:25 pm
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DENVER — Remove the Super Bowl champs and Colorado's Big 5 are all snowed in. Can the Avalanche dig us out from this blizzard of defeats?

The Broncos rule - the NFL, and your hearts. 

The Nuggets are in school - young, lottery-bound and years away.

The Rockies drool - five straight losing seasons and another looming. 

The Rapids have a wall - Tim Howard, the USMNT goalkeeper, arriving in July.

The Avs?

"We're happy to have this opportunity," coach Patrick Roy said. "Now we have to make the best of it."

The Avs' opportunity is not only to secure a spot in the NHL playoffs, but to secure eyeballs and headlines across Colorado. It's been a while, too long, since a local franchise other than the Broncos moved the needle around these hills.

Last time the Rockies won a postseason series, pitcher Jonathan Gray couldn't drive yet. For the Nuggets, point guard Emmanuel Mudiay was 13. For the Rapids, coach Pablo Mastroeni was moustache-less.

Last time the Avs won a playoff series — in 2008 — many of the players from this year's outdoor alumni game were not yet alumni. For too long they've been frozen out.

A blizzard blew into town Wednesday and closed Denver International Airport. If the Philadelphia Flyers weather the storm, they play at Pepsi Center on Thursday. Then comes the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. The Wild currently hold the final Wild Card spot, by a single point over the Avs.

Colorado has nine games left. This is go time, crunch time, winning time.

This is the Avalanche's time — to recapture the state of Colorado's attention after nearly a decade of meh. Sneak into the playoffs and weird things happen.

They must get there first, and do so without their top two scorers — Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene, who will miss Thursday and Saturday's games, at the least, with knee injuries. Week to week, Roy said of their status.

Since training camp opened, the Avs have contended they are a playoff team.

"Absolutely," Duchene said that first day.

"You look around the room and there's a lot of talent in here," team captain Gabriel Landeskog said.

Is there, though? The Avs teased big things with a division title in Roy's first season. They overachieved. Now they must achieve, a playoff berth, or risk big changes.

Colorado is playing its best hockey of the season, having won three consecutive road games, with injuries galore. At the right time, the Avs are doing their best to keep eyeballs off Mark Sanchez or whoever is the Broncos quarterback du jour.

"I think we did a pretty good job on this road trip," goalie Semyon Varlamov said.

In their most recently completed seasons, the Nuggets (12th in their conference), Rapids (last in their conference), Rockies (last in their division) and Avs (last in their division) all missed the playoffs. The Broncos hosted a Million Fan March.

We're happy to have this opportunity, Roy said. It's right in front of them.

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Twitter: @bypaulklee

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