Desperation is beginning to set in for the Avalanche after back-to-back losses to clubs also fighting for their playoff lives dealt serious blows to Colorado's postseason fate.
There aren't any so-called pushovers remaining on the schedule, either.
The Nashville Predators host the Avalanche twice during that final stretch and can wrap up a playoff berth with a victory Monday night.
Colorado (38-33-4) had won three in a row heading into Thursday's matchup with Philadelphia, but it allowed the final three goals in a 4-2 defeat. Then, after coming up empty despite a strong push in the first period, the Avalanche fell apart in a 4-0 loss to Minnesota on Saturday that dropped it five points behind the Wild for the West's final playoff spot.
Both of those defeats came without Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, who are battling knee injuries. Forward Mikko Rantanen was reassigned to the AHL following Saturday's contest, meaning at least one could be returning against the Predators (39-23-13) or at St. Louis on Tuesday.
Having their top two scorers healthy would be a big boost, especially with playoff teams Washington, Dallas and Anaheim also featured on the remaining slate.
“When you think about where we were in November, we never quit. Then why should we quit (now)?” coach Patrick Roy said. “I know the schedule doesn't favor us, I hear that. But at the same time, we have a game in hand (on Minnesota). Let's just play our games and play the way we're capable of. Let's go on the road and see what we can do.”
Nashville is feeling much more comfortable with the playoffs approaching. It is 11 points clear of Colorado in the wild-card race and has pulled to within two of Chicago for the Central Division's last guaranteed postseason spot by winning five of six.
The Predators will clinch a playoff berth with a win Monday after routing Columbus 5-1 on Saturday. Shea Weber moved into second place on the franchise's goal-scoring list and James Neal netted his 30th.
Roman Josi had three assists, giving him 44 to set the single-season team record for a defenseman. Neal's goal gave Nashville two 30-goal scorers for the first time since 2005-06.
“In parts of the season, one of us has been hot at different times, and that's been good,” said Filip Forsberg, who has 31 goals after scoring in each of the previous three. “We always try to shoot a lot of pucks, and (Neal's) got an unbelievable shot. He's been really showing the fans and the team what he can do. It's been unbelievable to watch him.”
The Avalanche won in Nashville on Dec. 12, but the Predators are 7-0-3 at home since Feb. 15 and will host Colorado again on April 5.
Weber and Neal scored, Forsberg had a goal and an assist and Pekka Rinne made 34 saves in a 5-2 win at Colorado on March 5. Rinne has won his last five starts with a 1.78 goals-against average, and he should be in net again for this one. He's 7-0-2 with a 1.87 GAA at home since Feb. 18.
Semyon Varlamov has started the last two for the Avs, but Roy hasn't announced his plans for the back-to-back set. He could decide to go with Calvin Pickard, who beat Edmonton 3-2 in his last outing March 20.