We pretty much know the identity of the West's eight playoff teams, but the East is a bumper-to-bumper race for its last few berths. Follow the races and games as the NHL regular season heads toward its April 8 conclusion.
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Hejduk had a goal and an assist to help the Avalanche give their fading playoff hopes a boost with a 4-3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
"We knew before the game that Calgary was up a couple of goals and definitely we had to win," Hejduk said.
Brett McLean, Wojtek Wolski and Brad Richardson also scored for the Avalanche, which won for the 11th time in 14 games to remain seven points behind Calgary for the Western Conference's final playoff spot. The Flames beat Minnesota 4-2 to maintain their lead.
"Basically we have to win all our games," Hejduk said. "We have five games left and we have to win everything."
Kevyn Adams scored his first goal with Phoenix and Steven Reinprecht also scored for the Coyotes, who have lost 13 of 15.
Phoenix pulled within 4-3 with 1:21 left when Nick Boynton's pass across the middle bounced off Colorado defenseman Ken Klee's left skate and trickled into the net.
Mikael Tellqvist went to the bench again after the ensuing faceoff and a third time after a Phoenix timeout forced a faceoff near center ice, but the closest the Coyotes came to the tying goal was Daniel Carcillo's backhand off the right post with 9 seconds left.
"We kind of sat back on our heels in the third period and they took it to us," said Colorado's Paul Stastny, who had two assists. "We're fortunate to get the win in regulation because that last shot hit the post. I was trying to look at the clock the whole time, though I should have been watching the action."
Colorado rolled to an easy lead, scoring all four goals during the game's first 28 minutes while limiting the Coyotes to three shots on goal.
"We played perfect for two periods of hockey," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said.
Hejduk made it 1-0 at 6:55 of the first, scoring off a rebound. Hejduk fed a perfect pass to McLean in the low slot from the right wing for a 2-0 lead at 12:45 of the period.
Wolski pushed the lead to 3-0 with a power-play goal at 6:36 of the second when he bounced a rebound from the right side of the net off defenseman Keith Ballard's leg and past Curtis Joseph.
Richardson scored 29 seconds later to give the Avalanche a 4-0 lead and send Joseph to the bench in favor of Tellqvist.
Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said he pulled Joseph, who is three wins short of tying Terry Sawchuk on the career wins list, so the goaltender could start again Friday in San Jose.
"It wasn't a case of it being Curtis' fault," Gretzky said. "It was more a case of it being 4-0 and trying to get him a rest and let him start fresh tomorrow."
The Coyotes finally came on in the third. Reinprecht scored Phoenix's first goal in nearly 130 minutes when he pushed a long rebound into the open right side of the net with 15:45 to go.
"They got some momentum with their first goal and we were basically hemmed in our end the whole third period," Quenneville said.
Adams cut the lead to 4-2 at 6:08 of the third period when he forced the puck under goalie Peter Budaj and inside the left post.
"It seems if you're the aggressor you're going to get more chances," Adams said. "We were able to catch them protecting a lead a little bit and sitting back."
Joe Sakic assisted on Richardson's goal for his 1,580th career point, moving him past former teammate Ray Bourque for ninth place on the all-time list. Sakic has 972 career assists, good for 11th all-time. ... Stastny is second among first-year players with 46. ... Coyotes RW Fredrik Sjostrom, a healthy scratch against Dallas on Tuesday, was back in the lineup Thursday.
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Arena: Gila River Arena Location: Glendale, Arizona
Referees: Michael McGeough, Craig Spada Linesmen: Ryan Galloway, Andy McElman
Attendance: 16,110 (94.1% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
Milan Hejduk (31)
Assists: Tyler Arnason, Paul Stastny
Brett McLean (15)
Assists: Milan Hejduk, Paul Stastny