Top seed in West on the line
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The Avalanche play the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday to determine who will be the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin next week.
The winner gets the top seed, the loser the second seed.
Game time hadn’t been set as of early Friday evening; according to NHL.com, it will begin at 1 p.m. MT or 5 p.m. MT.
Both teams are 2-0-0 in the round-robin games. The Avalanche defeated St. Louis, the defending Stanley Cup champion, 2-1 and Dallas 4-0. Vegas defeated Dallas 5-3 and St. Louis 6-4, coming from behind in the third period in both games.
The Avalanche won both regular-season games against the Golden Knights, 6-1 on Oct. 25 and 7-3 on Dec. 23, but that was a long time ago.
Coach Jared Bednar didn’t name a starter Friday, but Philipp Grubauer is expected to get the call. Robin Lehner will likely start for Vegas.
"Our team coming out of last year's playoffs, we felt like it would have been a big difference for us," Bednar said of gaining home-ice advantage, even though these playoff games will be at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the West’s hub city. “We played real well at home and loved playing at home at the Pepsi Center in front of our fans, and we were coming out of the San Jose series and we felt like it would have been nice to be able to have played that Game 7 on our ice.
“We didn't earn the right last year and we are certainly trying to give ourselves every advantage we possibly can going into the playoffs, and home ice is one of them even though we are playing here in Edmonton.
“There are advantages to having the home ice, and we want to make sure that if we want to use those advantages that we can. Our team has been focused in on that. We’ve got one game left and it is still within our grasp if we play the way we can. I'd like to see our team get rewarded for all our hard work during the regular season and get the top seed, and then we reset and we are starting over for a seven-game series."
Dallas and St. Louis, both 0-2-0, will play Sunday to determine the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds.
Despite the absence of leading scorer Max Pacioretty, the Golden Knights have scored 11 goals in two games, seven of them coming in the third period. They scored four times in the third to defeat Dallas and got three goals in the third to knock off St. Louis.
Pacioretty’s status is unknown, though coach Peter DeBoer has said he’s close to returning. Pacioretty, who had 32 goals and 66 points in 71 games, sustained an injury in training camp and hasn’t practiced since July 19.
"It's a really good team, deep team,” Bednar said. “They have been scoring a lot of goals. They play hard, they play fast, they're skilled, well coached. It's a tough opponent for sure. They are in this round robin for a reason and I feel like their play has been getting better and better and they certainly looked good the last couple games of the round robin."
The projected lineup:
Vladislav Namestnikov -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog -- Nazem Kadri -- Valeri Nichushkin
Andre Burakovsky -- J.T. Compher -- Joonas Donskoi
Tyson Jost/Matt Nieto -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Matt Calvert
Ryan Graves -- Cale Makar
Samuel Girard -- Erik Johnson
Ian Cole -- Nikita Zadorov