The Colorado Avalanche are among a handful of teams fighting for the final Western Conference playoff berth. Extending a long unbeaten streak at home over the Carolina Hurricanes will make the race a little tighter.
Colorado will try to stretch its unbeaten run over the Carolina franchise in Denver to 10 straight as the teams meet for the only time this season Friday night.
Looking to make a second postseason appearance in three years, the Avalanche (27-25-3) are part of a jumble of five teams between eighth and 12th place in the West separated by no more than four points.
"Each night, these points are so important for us. It doesn't matter if it's Carolina, Chicago, Detroit, Vancouver," defenseman Shane O'Brien said. "We have no time to tiptoe into games, we got to go right in, full bore."
Colorado will try to post consecutive wins following a season-high five-game skid. Gabriel Landeskog snapped a 2-all tie early in the third period Tuesday against the Blackhawks, and David Jones and Kyle Quincey added insurance goals in a 5-2 victory.
Though the Hurricanes (20-25-10) are at the bottom of the East and replaced the fired Paul Maurice with Kirk Muller in November, the Avs' Erik Johnson refuses to look past them.
"They're a team we don't see too often for sure, but we know they're a hard-working team," said Johnson, tied with Quincey for the team lead among defensemen with 18 assists. "(Since) the coaching change, they're a better team and we can't take them lightly."
Carolina is 12-12-6 under Muller, but 3-6-5 on the road.
The Hurricanes won their last two home games against the Avalanche by 2-1 margins, and will meet for the first time since Dec. 3, 2010. Carolina's last visit to the Mile High City resulted in a 5-4 loss Oct. 23, 2009.
Winning in Colorado has continually eluded the Hurricanes since relocating from Hartford in 1997. After posting ties in 1996 as the Whalers and 1997 following the franchise shift, Carolina has been outscored 29-14 while dropping seven straight in Denver.
The Hurricanes have scored with the man advantage in each of their last three visits to Colorado, but those single strikes have paled in comparison to what the Avs have done against them. Carolina has surrendered at least one power-play goal in 13 straight contests in the series, allowing Colorado to go 11 for 24 (45.8 percent) in the last five.
The 'Canes opened a three-game road trip with a 3-2 overtime loss to Anaheim on Wednesday.
"Our compete level was there, we were on pucks, we were aggressive, we were attacking. Wardo was good when he needed to be," said Staal, the team leader with 26 assists and 39 points.
Ruutu, whose name has been tossed around in trade talks, has 17 goals this season, two shy of matching his total in 82 games last season. He has a goal and three assists in his last four games versus Colorado.
Staal has never scored in six meetings with the Avalanche.