Kings, Avs take on elements at Colorado Springs

NHL

The 82-game schedule can be a grind, especially in the middle of winter, but the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings are taking a break from the normal.

The two Western Conference opponents are bringing their games into the fresh air for an outdoor game at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Saturday night. The Avalanche and Kings are playing the next installment of the NHL Stadium Series at Falcon Stadium, home of the Air Force football team.

The temperatures for the puck drop should be near 30 degrees, which is much chillier than the first time Colorado hosted an outdoor game. When the Avalanche played Detroit at Coors Field on Feb. 27, 2016, the game-time temperature was 67 degrees.

Colorado has been hit with a few big snow storms over the past 12 days, so the atmosphere will have a definite wintry feel.

“The first one at Coors Field was a smashing success and we know here at the iconic Falcon Stadium it’s going to be an unbelievable experience for everybody,” Colorado vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic said during a press conference before the start of the season. “I wasn’t able to play in one of these as a player, only an alumni game a few years ago, but I can speak on behalf of the players, this is a game that’s been circled for a long time. We know there’s a lot of games before it but it’s the one game that every single player looks forward to.”

While the fanfare is nice, and playing just the second game at a U.S. Service Academy — the Washington Capitals defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., on March 3, 2018 — the most important thing for Colorado is getting two points.

The Avalanche blew a 2-0 lead and lost 3-2 to the Capitals on Thursday night but they’ve been one of the hottest teams in the NHL the last 10 games. Colorado won five in a row and eight of its previous nine before Thursday’s setback.

The Kings have been going in a different direction. L.A. has won two Stanley Cups in the last eight years but have hit bottom this season. The Kings’ 45 points is the second fewest behind Detroit (32) and they are just 3-12-1 since the calendar flipped to 2020.

One of those wins came against Calgary on Wednesday to stop a five-game skid but it was a rare victory. L.A. had lost 10 of 11 before beating the Flames.

“There are some things we can look at to work on and improve on,” coach Todd McLellan said after a recent loss. “That’s who we are and that’s where we are.”

While this will be the second outdoor game for the Avalanche, the Kings are playing in their third. They took part in the first Stadium Series game, a 3-0 loss to Anaheim at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25, 2014 and beat San Jose at Levi Stadium a year later.

–Field Level Media

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