NEW YORK — The Colorado Avalanche long ago became resigned to playing the role of spoiler during the second half of the NHL season, On Sunday night, they’ll have a rare chance to damage an opponent’s playoff chances for a second time when they visit the New York islanders at Barclays Center.
The game will be the second of a back-to-back set for both the Islanders and Avalanche, each of whom lost on Saturday. New York fell to the Ottawa Senators, 3-0, while Colorado dropped a 4-2 decision to the New York Rangers.
The Avalanche are an NHL-worst 15-35-2, including just 3-15-1 since play resumed following the holiday break. But one of those wins came against the Islanders on Jan. 6, when Colorado earned a 2-1 overtime victory at Pepsi Center.
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That loss could loom big for the Islanders (24-19-10), who have gone 18-9-6 since Nov. 28 to climb into the wild card race. The defeat on Saturday dropped New York three points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers, who are currently tied for the second wild card.
Following the loss to the Senators, Islanders center and captain John Tavares said he was looking forward to getting back on the ice Sunday.
“It’s a quick turnaround, so it gives you a chance to wash this one away,” Tavares said. “We start fresh (Sunday) and obviously (want to) get a better result and a more positive feeling.”
Positive feelings have been hard to come by for the Avalanche, but rookie head coach Jared Bednar said Saturday night he hopes Colorado has established a pesky reputation in going 2-3-0 this month — a stretch that included consecutive home victories against the contending Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens.
“Listen, I know our record overall is not good — it’s horrible,” Bednar said. “But at the end of the day, you look at the way we just played over a three-game homestand, and we were a dangerous team. We can be loose. We have nothing to lose. We can be confident from what we just did recently.”
Since Avalanche No. 1 goalie Calvin Pickard started Saturday, it is likely that backup Jeremy Smith will make his NHL debut in the net. Smith was recalled Wednesday from San Antonio of the AHL after going 5-8-0 with a 2.57 goals against average.
Islanders starter Thomas Greiss also played Saturday, which means backup Jean-Francois Berube is likely to draw the start against the Avalanche. Berube took the loss in his most recent appearance Feb. 4, when, in his only start in the last three weeks, he stopped 20 shots in New York’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Bednar said Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie will likely play Sunday after missing the last four games due to a lower body injury. Barrie skated and worked out Saturday.
Islanders right winger Cal Clutterbuck has missed the last four games with a lower body injury and appears questionable at best to suit up Sunday.