Retooled Canucks, Avs prepare for critical showdown
Two teams still in the hunt for a playoff spot made minor moves before the NHL trading dealing on Monday, but both hope it's enough to sneak in as a wild card in the Western Conference.
The Vancouver Canucks (27-28-8, 62 points) are four points back of Colorado (27-24-12) in the standings, and the Avalanche are right there behind Minnesota for the second wild card. While many teams made big, splashy moves Monday, the Canucks added forward Tanner Pearson and center Linus Karlsson.
Vancouver center Bo Horvat played with Pearson when both were with London in the OHL and saw his former teammate win a Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2014. He hopes he can bring that magic to the Canucks.
"Watching that Cup final and how good he was and how good (Tyler) Toffoli, (Jeff) Carter and him were, I think he can bring that aspect here as well," Horvat told the Vancouver Sun. "He has been there and been in the tough situations in top-six roles, and it's great to add that to our group. He has a lot of upside, and we're happy to have him."
Neither Pearson nor Karlsson played in the Canucks' 4-0 win over Anaheim on Monday but Colorado's new addition made an immediate impact. The Avalanche acquired forward Derick Brassard from Florida just hours before playing the Panthers in Denver.
Brassard played 13 minutes, 10 seconds and scored a goal after moving his gear to the home locker room. He gave Colorado a 3-2 lead early in the third, but the Avalanche eventually lost 4-3 in overtime.
Brassard, 31, is the second-oldest player on a roster stacked with young talent. He is also reunited with forward Matt Calvert. Brassard was playing for Columbus when Calvert broke in into the NHL with the Blue Jackets in 2010-11.
"When I first came to the league, he took me in," Calvert said after Monday's loss. "I stayed with him for a month or two at his house, so I got to know him well, and I've kind of followed his career since and kept close in touch. I've seen him at a few weddings over the summer, so great addition for our team, a lot of talent, and he's only going to help our playoff chances."
Colorado helped its own playoff chances with a four-game winning streak that was ended against Florida. The Avalanche haven't figured out how to win in overtime, losing 11 of 12 results decided in the extra five minutes. They've also lost their only shootout.
If Colorado does miss the playoffs by a few points, it can point to the woes after regulation.
"We have to find a way to get two points," Calvert said. "Every point is going to matter down the stretch here."
Brassard's arrival came just as the Avalanche lost forward Matt Nieto for six to eight weeks with a lower-body injury. General manager Joe Sakic said Nieto's injury was thought to keep him out a couple of weeks, but the longer timeline was announced long after talks to acquire Brassard started.
With an expiring contract, Brassard may just be a rental, but Sakic felt the team deserved another piece to keep driving for the playoffs.
"The last 10 games against some really good teams in tough buildings, guys have found their legs and playing really well as a team and our goaltending has been excellent," Sakic said. "They deserved a chance for us to keep this thing going and try to make the playoffs."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 26, 2019